The Info List - Roderick Murchison

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FLS PRGS PBA MRIA (22 February 1792 – 22 October 1871) was a Scottish geologist who first described and investigated the Silurian


* 1 Early life and work * 2 Silurian
system * 3 Scotland
* 4 Later life

* 5 Legacy

* 5.1 Memorials

* 6 Bibliography * 7 References * 8 Further reading * 9 External links


Murchison was born at Tarradale House , Muir of Ord , Ross-shire , the son of Kenneth Murchison. His wealthy father died in 1796, when Roderick was 4 years old, and he was sent to Durham School
Durham School
3 years later, and then the military college at Great Marlow to be trained for the army. In 1808 he landed with Wellesley in Galicia , and was present at the actions of Roliça and Vimeiro . Subsequently under Sir John Moore , he took part in the retreat to Corunna and the final battle there.

After eight years of service Murchison left the army, and married Charlotte Hugonin (1788–1869), the only daughter of General Hugonin, of Nursted House, Hampshire. Murchison and his wife spent two years in mainland Europe , particularly in Italy
. They then settled in Barnard Castle , County Durham, England in 1818 where Murchison made the acquaintance of Sir Humphry Davy
Humphry Davy
. Davy urged Murchison to turn his energy to science, after hearing that he wasted his time riding to hounds and shooting. Murchison became fascinated by the young science of geology and joined the Geological Society of London
Geological Society of London
, soon becoming one of its most active members. His colleagues there included Adam Sedgwick , William Conybeare , William Buckland , William Fitton , Charles Lyell and Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin

Exploring with his wife, Murchison studied the geology of the south of England, devoting special attention to the rocks of the north-west of Sussex
and the adjoining parts of Hampshire
and Surrey
, on which, aided by Fitton, he wrote his first scientific paper, read to the Geological Society of London
Geological Society of London
in 1825. Turning his attention to Continental geology, he and Lyell explored the volcanic region of Auvergne , parts of southern France
, northern Italy
, Tyrol and Switzerland
. A little later, with Sedgwick as his companion, Murchison attacked the difficult problem of the geological structure of the Alps
. Their joint paper giving the results of their study is a classic in the literature of Alpine geology.


In 1831 he went to the border of England and Wales , to attempt to discover whether the greywacke rocks underlying the Old Red Sandstone could be grouped into a definite order of succession. The result was the establishment of the Silurian
system under which were grouped, for the first time, a remarkable series of formations, each replete with distinctive organic remains other than and very different from those of the other rocks of England. These researches, together with descriptions of the coalfields and overlying formations in South Wales and the English border counties , were embodied in The Silurian
System (1839).

The establishment of the Silurian
system was followed by that of the Devonian
system, an investigation in which Murchison assisted, both in the south-west of England and in the Rhineland
. Soon afterwards Murchison projected an important geological campaign in Russia
with the view of extending to that part of the Continent the classification he had succeeded in elaborating for the older rocks of western Europe. He was accompanied by Edouard de Verneuil (1805–1873) and Count Alexander von Keyserling (1815–1891), in conjunction with whom he produced a work on Russia
and the Ural Mountains
Ural Mountains
. The publication of this monograph in 1845 completes the first and most active half of Murchison’s scientific career. He was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
American Academy of Arts and Sciences
in 1840.

In 1846 he was knighted, and in the same year he presided over the meeting of the British Association at Southampton
. During the later years of his life a large part of his time was devoted to the affairs of the Royal Geographical Society
Royal Geographical Society
, of which he was in 1830 one of the founders, and he was president 1843–1845, 1851–1853, 1856–1859 and 1862–1871. He served on the Royal Commission on the British Museum (1847–49).


London, 1860

The chief geological investigation of the last decade of his life was devoted to the Highlands of Scotland, where he wrongly believed he had succeeded in showing that the vast masses of crystalline schists , previously supposed to be part of what used to be termed the Primitive formations, were really not older than the Silurian
period, for that underneath them lay beds of limestone and quartzite containing Lower Silurian
( Cambrian
) fossils . James Nicol recognised the fallacy in the Murchison's extant theory and propounded his own ideas, in the 1880s these were superseded by the correct theory of Charles Lapworth , which was corroborated by Benjamin Peach and John Horne . Their subsequent research showed that the infraposition of the fossiliferous rocks is not their original place, but had been brought about by a gigantic system of dislocations, whereby successive masses of the oldest gneisses , have been exhumed from below and thrust over the younger formations.

In 1855 Murchison was appointed director-general of the British Geological Survey and director of the Royal School of Mines and the Museum of Practical Geology
in Jermyn Street, London
, in succession to Sir Henry De la Beche , who had been the first to hold these offices. Official routine now occupied much of his time, but he found opportunity for the Highland researches just alluded to, and also for preparing successive editions of his work Siluria (1854, ed. 5, 1872), which was meant to present the main features of the original Silurian System together with a digest of subsequent discoveries, particularly of those that showed the extension of the Silurian
classification into other countries.


Funerary monument, Brompton Cemetery, London

In 1845, whilst visiting Carclew
in Cornwall
, he met several Cornish miners who were going to Australia
. Believing that there may have been gold there he asked them to send back likely samples. They did this and thus Murchison knew of the existence of gold in Australia before Edward Hargraves ' discovery.

In 1857, Murchison was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society .

In 1863, he was made a KCB , and three years later was created a baronet . The learned societies of his own country bestowed their highest rewards upon him: the Royal Society
Royal Society
gave him the Copley medal , the Geological Society its Wollaston medal , and the Royal Society of Edinburgh its Brisbane Medal . There was hardly a foreign scientific society of note without his name among its honorary members. The French Academy of Sciences
French Academy of Sciences
awarded him the prix Cuvier, and elected him one of its eight foreign members in succession to Michael Faraday . In 1855, he was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
and in 1871 awarded the Founder\'s Gold Medal of the Royal Geological Society.

One of the closing public acts of Murchison’s life was the founding of a chair of geology and mineralogy at the University of Edinburgh
University of Edinburgh
. Under his will there was established the Murchison Medal and a geological fund ( The Murchison Fund ) to be awarded annually by the council of the Geological Society in London.

Murchison died in 1871, and is buried in Brompton Cemetery , London near the north end of the arcade on the west side of the central path.


The crater Murchison on the Moon
and at least fifteen geographical locations on Earth are named after him.

These include: the Murchison Range in the Stauning Alps
, Greenland
; Mount Murchison in the Mountaineer Range , Antarctica; Mount Murchison, just west of Squamish, British Columbia , Canada
; tiny Murchison Island in the Queen Charlotte Islands in the same province; Murchison Falls (Uganda) ; and the Murchison River in Western Australia. Murchison has two other rivers named after him in Western Australia: the Roderick River and the Impey River , both tributaries of the Murchison. The town of Murchison in the Tasman Region of New Zealand's South Island was also named after him. Murchison Road is one of the streets in East London.


Memorial tablet

A memorial tablet of Murchison was installed on 3 November 2005, in front of School #9 in Perm
in Russia. It consists of a stone base, irregular in form, about 2 meters long, and bearing a dark stone plate with the Russian inscription:

To Roderick Impey Murchison, Scottish geologist, explorer of Perm Krai, who gives to the last period of the Palaeozoic era the name of Permian.

The decision to perpetuate the explorer's name was accepted by the school administration and pupils in connection with a discussion to establish in Perm
a pillar or an arch devoted to Roderick Murchison.

In 2009, the Ural-Scottish Society erected a memorial to Murchison on the banks of the Chusovaya River .

There is a commemorative 'blue plaque' on his residence in Barnard Castle (County Durham) at 21 Galgate.


* Geology
of Cheltenham (1834) * The Silurian System (1839) * On the Geological Structure of the Northern and Central Regions of Russia
in Europe (1841) * Geology
of Russia
in Europe and the Ural Mountains
Ural Mountains

The standard author abbreviation MURCH. is used to indicate this individual as the author when citing a botanical name .


* ^ http://biography.yourdictionary.com/sir-roderick-impey-murchison * ^ Amodeo, Christian (June 2005). "Sir Roderick Impey Murchison: Pioneering Scottish geologist Roderick Murchison
Roderick Murchison
was instrumental in the identification and naming of several geological time periods". Geographical. * ^ Bonney, T. G.; rev. Robert A. Stafford. "Murchison, Sir Roderick Impey, baronet (1792–1871)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004; online edn, May 2009). Retrieved 9 September 2009. In 1799 Roderick was placed at the grammar school, Durham, where he led in mischief more often than in his class. * ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter M" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 15 September 2016. * ^ The Life of Sir Anthony Panizzi, Volume 1, by Louis Alexander Fagan, p257 * ^ John Langdon Bonython , Address of the President, Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall, Volume XXIV, Parts 1 and 2, 1933–34, p5. * ^ American Antiquarian Society Members Directory * ^ "List of Past Gold Medal Winners" (PDF). Royal Geographical Society. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 24 August 2015. * ^ "Catalogue of place names in northern East Greenland" (PDF). Geological Survey of Denmark. Retrieved 30 December 2016. * ^ BCGNIS listing "Mount Murchison" * ^ (in Russian) http://perm.rfn.ru/rnews.html?id=14621. Retrieved 27 March 2010. Missing or empty title= (help ) * ^ "A memorial to Sir Roderick Impey Murchison, the Scottish geologist who established the Permian archaeological period of the Mesozoic Era, has been unveiled on the bank of the Chusovaya River in the Ural Mountains". Daily Telegraph. 24 February 2009. Retrieved 27 March 2010. * ^ IPNI . Murch.

* This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Murchison, Sir Roderick Impey". Encyclopædia Britannica . 19 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 31–32.


* Geikie, Archibald (1875). Life of Sir Roderick I. Murchison. London: John Murray. * Hestmark, Geir 2008. ”A primitive country of rocks and people” – Roderick I Murchison’s Silurian
Campaign in Norway 1844. Norwegian Journal of Geology
88: 117-141. * Morton, John L., King of Siluria — How Roderick Murchison Changed the Face of Geology
(Brocken Spectre Publishing, 2004, ISBN 0-9546829-0-4 ) * Rudwick, Martin J. S. , The Great Devonian
Controversy: The Shaping of Scientific Knowledge among Gentlemanly Specialists (University of Chicago Press, 1985) — the rise of Murchison to power * Secord, James A., Controversy in Victorian Geology: The Cambrian- Silurian
Dispute (Princeton University Press, 1986) — documents the battle between Murchison and Adam Sedgwick
Adam Sedgwick
* Murchison's Wanderings in Russia: His Geological Exploration of Russia
in Europe and the Ural Mountains, 1840-1841 / Ed. M. Collie, J. Diener. Buckinghamshire: Halstan ;background:none transparent;border:none;-moz-box-shadow:none;-webkit-box-shadow:none;box-shadow:none;">v

* t * e

Copley Medallists of 1801–1850

* Astley Cooper (1801) * William Hyde Wollaston (1802) * Richard Chenevix (1803) * Smithson Tennant (1804) * Humphry Davy
Humphry Davy
(1805) * Thomas Andrew Knight (1806) * Everard Home (1807) * William Henry (1808) * Edward Troughton (1809) * Benjamin Collins Brodie (1811) * William Thomas Brande (1813) * James Ivory (1814) * David Brewster (1815) * Henry Kater (1817) * Robert Seppings (1818) * Hans Christian Ørsted (1820) * Edward Sabine / John Herschel
John Herschel
(1821) * William Buckland (1822) * John Pond (1823) * John Brinkley (1824) * François Arago
François Arago
/ Peter Barlow (1825) * James South (1826) * William Prout
William Prout
/ Henry Foster (1827) * George Biddell Airy
George Biddell Airy
(1831) * Michael Faraday / Siméon Denis Poisson (1832) * Giovanni Antonio Amedeo Plana
Giovanni Antonio Amedeo Plana
(1834) * William Snow Harris (1835) * Jöns Jacob Berzelius / Francis Kiernan (1836) * Antoine César Becquerel / John Frederic Daniell (1837) * Carl Friedrich Gauss
Carl Friedrich Gauss
/ Michael Faraday (1838) * Robert Brown (1839) * Justus von Liebig / Jacques Charles François Sturm (1840) * Georg Ohm
Georg Ohm
(1841) * James MacCullagh (1842) * Jean-Baptiste Dumas (1843) * Carlo Matteucci (1844) * Theodor Schwann (1845) * Urbain Le Verrier
Urbain Le Verrier
(1846) * John Herschel
John Herschel
(1847) * John Couch Adams
John Couch Adams
(1848) * Roderick Murchison
Roderick Murchison
(1849) * Peter Andreas Hansen (1850)

* v * t * e

Presidents of the Royal Geographical Society
Royal Geographical Society


* Frederick John Robinson, 1st Viscount Goderich * George Murray * Sir John Barrow, 1st Baronet
* William Richard Hamilton * George Bellas Greenough
George Bellas Greenough
* Roderick Murchison * Charles Abbot, 2nd Baron Colchester * W. J. Hamilton * William Henry Smyth * Roderick Murchison * Francis Egerton, 1st Earl of Ellesmere * Frederick William Beechey * Roderick Murchison * Bingham Baring, 2nd Baron Ashburton * Roderick Murchison * Sir Henry Rawlinson, 1st Baronet
* Henry Bartle Frere
Henry Bartle Frere
* Sir Henry Rawlinson, 1st Baronet
* Rutherford Alcock * Thomas Baring, 1st Earl of Northbrook * Henry Bruce, 1st Baron Aberdare
Henry Bruce, 1st Baron Aberdare
* John Campbell, Marquess of Lorne * Richard Strachey * Mountstuart Elphinstone Grant Duff * Sir Clements Robert Markham


* George Taubman Goldie * Leonard Darwin * George Curzon, 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston
George Curzon, 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston
* Douglas Freshfield * Thomas Holdich * Francis Younghusband * Lawrence Dundas, Earl of Ronaldshay * David George Hogarth * Charles Close * William Goodenough
William Goodenough
* Percy Zachariah Cox * Henry Balfour * Philip Chetwode, 1st Baron Chetwode * George Clark * Francis Rodd, 2nd Baron Rennell * Harry Lindsay * James Wordie * James Marshall- Cornwall
* Roger Nathan, 2nd Baron Nathan * Raymond Priestley * Dudley Stamp * Gilbert Laithwaite * Edmund Irving * Edward Shackleton, Baron Shackleton * Duncan Cumming * John Hunt, Baron Hunt * Michael Wise * Vivian Fuchs * George Bishop * Roger Chorley, 2nd Baron Chorley * Crispin Tickell
Crispin Tickell
* George Jellicoe, 2nd Earl Jellicoe * John Palmer, 4th Earl of Selborne


* Ronald Urwick Cooke * Neil Cossons * Gordon Conway * Michael Palin
Michael Palin
* Judith Rees

* v * t * e

Presidents of the Geological Society of London
Geological Society of London


* George Bellas Greenough
George Bellas Greenough
* Henry Grey Bennet * William Blake * John MacCulloch
John MacCulloch
* George Bellas Greenough
George Bellas Greenough
* Earl Compton * William Babington * William Buckland * John Bostock * William Fitton * Adam Sedgwick
Adam Sedgwick
* Roderick Murchison * George Bellas Greenough
George Bellas Greenough
* Charles Lyell * William Whewell
William Whewell
* William Buckland * Roderick Murchison * Henry Warburton * Leonard Horner * Henry De la Beche * Charles Lyell * William Hopkins * Edward Forbes * William Hamilton * Daniel Sharpe * Joseph Ellison Portlock * John Phillips * Leonard Horner * Andrew Crombie Ramsay * William Hamilton * Warington Wilkinson Smyth * Thomas Henry Huxley
Thomas Henry Huxley
* Joseph Prestwich * George Douglas Campbell * John Evans * Peter Martin Duncan * Henry Clifton Sorby
Henry Clifton Sorby
* Robert Etheridge * John Whitaker Hulke * Thomas Bonney * John Wesley Judd * William Blanford * Archibald Geikie * Wilfred Hudleston * Henry Woodward * Henry Hicks * William Whitaker


* Jethro Teall * Charles Lapworth * John Marr * Archibald Geikie * William Sollas * William Watts * Aubrey Strahan * Arthur Smith Woodward * Alfred Harker * George Lamplugh * Richard Oldham * Albert Seward * John Evans * Francis Bather * John Gregory * Edmund Garwood * Thomas Holland * John Green * Owen Thomas Jones * Henry Hurd Swinnerton * Percy Boswell * Herbert Leader Hawkins * William Fearnsides * Arthur Trueman * Herbert Harold Read * Cecil Tilley * Owen Thomas Jones * George Lees * William King * Walter Campbell Smith * Leonard Hawkes * James Stubblefield * Sydney Hollingworth * Oliver Bulman * Frederick Shotton * Kingsley Dunham * Thomas Neville George * William Alexander Deer * Thomas Westoll * Percy Kent * Wallace Pitcher * Percival Allen * Howel Francis * Janet Watson * Charles Holland * Bernard Leake * Derek Blundell * Anthony Harris * Charles Curtis * R. S. J. Sparks * Richard Hardman * Robin Cocks


* Ronald Oxburgh * Mark Moody-Stuart
Mark Moody-Stuart
* Peter Styles * Richard Fortey * Lynne Frostick


* WorldCat Identities * VIAF : 46876809 * LCCN : n87825882 * ISNI : 0000 0001 2131 1797 * GND : 119297345 * SUDOC : 034915141 * BNF : cb125616620 (data) * Botanist : Murch. * IATH