Lecture: Doctoring Geology: the Medical Origins of the Geological Society

Speaker: Dr. Cherry Lewis, University of Bristol

Entry Fee

Members: Free

Visitors: £5.00

Date and Time

19:30 -


Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution, 16-18 Queen Square, Bath BA1 2HN

Lecture Description

Four of the Geological Society’s 13 founders were medical men: William Babington, James Parkinson, James Franck and James Laird, the Society’s first Secretary. All were physicians and mineralogists except Parkinson, an apothecary surgeon and fossilist. At least twenty per cent of the Society’s early members were also medical practitioners whose prime interest was mineralogy. The subject was taught as part of medical training, required as it was in the fabrication of medicines, thus medical men were drawn into mineralogy and on into geology.

Driven by wealthy mineral collectors and patrons of science like Charles Greville, one reason - perhaps the reason - for founding the Geological Society was to map the mineralogical history of Britain. Towards this endeavour Babington’s expertise in mineralogy brought people together, Laird organised them, and Parkinson was invited because he was not a mineralogist. Franck was unable to participate significantly, being away at war most of the time. The contribution made to the founding of the Geological Society by each of the medical founders will be examined and a biographical sketch of each man reveals the close relationship between medicine and the emergence of this new science of geology.

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