Jul 252016
 

Robert Jameson's house21 Royal Circus, Edinburgh EH3 6TL

Robert Jameson was Edinburgh’s professor of natural history from 1804 to 1854. He was, like his predecessor John Walker, a mineralogist by training, having studied with the great German mineralogist Abraham Gottlob Werner in Freiberg. On his return to Edinburgh he became the most important champion of Werner’s neptunist theories in Britain. It was also through his edition of Georges Cuvier’s Theory of the Earth that the English-speaking world first became aware of the great French geologist’s catastrophist theories. Some scholars believe that he was also an early convert to the evolutionary interpretation of the history of life.

No public access.

Portrait of Robert Jameson (1774–1854).

Portrait of Robert Jameson (1774–1854).

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Jul 252016
 

John Walker's grave.Canongate Kirkyard, 153 Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8BN

John Walker was the University of Edinburgh’s second professor of natural history from 1779 to 1803, but the first to take his teaching responsibilities seriously. Walker was primarily a mineralogist and had little time for speculative theories of the earth. He was also an enemy of evolutionary speculation and described the transmutation of species in his lectures as ‘a vulgar error’. He took his students on regular field trips and held tutorials in the University’s natural history museum, of which he was also the keeper.  In both of these practices he was followed by his successor, Robert Jameson.

The Rev. Dr John Walker (1731-1803), from the frontispiece from a volume of the Naturalists Library (1842).

The Rev. Dr John Walker (1731-1803), from the frontispiece from a volume of the Naturalists Library (1842).

 

Inscription on John Walker's gravestone.

Inscription on John Walker’s gravestone.

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Jul 252016
 

Hutton's sectionRadical Road, Edinburgh EH8 8AL

At this site James Hutton found proof for his theory that heat plays an essential role in rock formation.  He believed that a band of molten rock had been injected into older strata long after the formation of the surrounding rock. During Charles Darwin’s time as a medical student in Edinburgh in 1825-7 he accompanied the professor of natural history, Robert Jameson, on a field trips to Salisbury Crags. Darwin later recalled being deeply unimpressed by Jameson’s explanation that these intrusive rocks had been deposited from above by precipitation from the sea rather than injected as magma from below.

A plaque at the site give some interesting information on its history and significance.

Caricature of James Hutton (1726-97).

Caricature of James Hutton (1726-97).

Plaque at Hutton's Section.

Plaque at Hutton’s Section.

Charles Darwin (1809–82).

Charles Darwin (1809–82).

 

Portrait of Robert Jameson (1774–1854) by one of his students, c.1831.

Portrait of Robert Jameson (1774–1854) by one of his students, c.1831.

 

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Jul 252016
 

Giant Irish Elk skeleton.National Museum of Scotland, Chambers St, Edinburgh EH1 1JF

The magnificent skeleton of this extinct beast was added to the collection of Edinburgh University’s natural history museum in 1821 by Robert Jameson. It is not in fact a close relative of modern elks, but is a species of extinct giant deer. The skeleton was discovered in a bog in Ballaugh on the Isle of Man, and brought to Edinburgh through the efforts of the Duke of Atholl. This remarkable creature was at the centre of early debates on extinction. The great French geologist, Georges Cuvier, famously used it as an example of a species that was now completely extinct.

Giant Irish Elk, from the George Cuvier's Theory of the Earth(1827), edited by Robert Jameson.

Giant Irish Elk, from George Cuvier’s Theory of the Earth (1827), edited by Robert Jameson.

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Apr 172016
 

Talbot Rice Gallery, Old College, South Bridge, Edinburgh EH8 9YL

Former University Natural History Museum

Until 1861 Edinburgh University’s museum was housed in what is now the Talbot Rice Gallery. The collection was founded by Sir Robert Sibbald in 1692 and greatly expanded by Robert Jameson, Edinburgh’s professor of natural history from 1804 to 1854. It contained the most important natural history collection in Britain after London’s British Museum. Jameson was notorious for denying access to scholars to whom he took a dislike, including a number of members of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He also famously ‘mislaid’ the geological collection of James Hutton, whose theories he did not agree with.

Admission to the Talbot Rice Gallery is free.

 

The Natural History Museum of the University of Edinburgh in Robert Jameson's day.

The Natural History Museum of the University of Edinburgh in Robert Jameson’s day.

Portrait of Robert Jameson (1774–1854) by one of his students, c.1831.

Portrait of Robert Jameson (1774–1854) by one of his students, c.1831.

 

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