Alexander Henry Green M.A., F.R.S., F.G.S.

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Alexander Henry Green M.A., F.R.S., F.G.S.. BGS Photograph ID: P575804.
Alexander Henry Green. Image taken from Proceedings of the Yorkshire Geological and Polytechnic Society, Vol 8 Pt2 1896.
Alexander Henry Green.

Alexander Henry Green M.A., F.R.S., F.G.S.[edit]

Alexander Henry Green was born in Maidstone in 1832, the son of Rev T S Green, a classical scholar and headmaster of Ashby-de-la Zouch Grammar School.

Whilst still at school his knowledge of Ashby was so good that that when Andrew Ramsay visited the area for the British Geological Survey, he acknowledged Green as the local authority and suggested he should join the Survey.

He went to Cambridge in 1855 and was appointed a Fellow at Gonville and Caius College in the same year.

Joining the Geological Survey in 1862 as an assistant geologist, Green spent some time in Buckinghamshire and Derbyshire before he was transferred to the Yorkshire and Derbyshire coalfields and promoted to geologist in 1867.

His time at the Survey was relatively short, only covering 13 years, but his output was considerable. He was involved in mapping a large number of sheets at one and six inch to the mile scales and producing the memoirs for Banbury, Stockport, Tadcaster, Dewsbury, Barnsley and north Derbyshire.

However, he was probably best known for his substantial contribution to the understanding of the geology of the coalfields and for the 800 page Geology of the Yorkshire Coalfields, the largest and most important coalfield memoir published by the Survey. Green became regarded as one of the leading authorities on the geology of coal.

His fieldwork was accurate and meticulous and his sketches are works of art. The 1973 disaster at the Lofthouse colliery in Wakefield could possibly have been averted if the relevant information held in one of Green's notebooks and on his field map had been seen and understood.

He resigned from the Survey in 1874 and took up the professorship of geology (and professorship of mathematics) at the new Yorkshire College in Leeds. There he produced his textbook, the popular Manual of Physical Geology. As well as being a Senior Fellow of Caius College Cambridge, he was also a lecturer at the Royal School of Military Engineering in Chatham.

In 1888, at the age of 75, Professor Prestwich retired as professor of geology at Oxford and Green willing accepted the post, teaching and reorganising the collections and doing consulting. He was a Fellow and vice president of the Geological Society of London and appointed a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1886. He served on the council of the Royal Society from 1894–95.


He studied parts of the Lake District and Donegal and was an early convert to the 'heresy' that the surface of the ground owes its form mainly to the actions of rain and rivers. As an expert on coal and water supply, Green also visited Newfoundland and South Africa, the results of which were considered major contributions to the subject.

Unfortunately he never recovered fully from a bout of severe influenza in 1895 and died in 1896 at the relatively young age of 64.

Timeline[edit]

1832 Born October 10th, Maidstone. Sone of Rev. T.S. Green, classical scholar and Master of Ashley-de-la-Zouche Grammar School. Educated at Ashley Grammar School and at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.
1858 6th Wrangler. Elected Fellow of his College.
1861 Appointed Assistant Geologist with the Geological Survey (1867 Geologist). Worked in Midland Counties on Jurassic and Cretaceous, also Carboniferous of Derbyshire and Yorkshire etc.
1874 Retired from Survey. Appointed to Professorship of Geology at Leeds (Yorkshire College). Completed official survey work after appointment.
1876 Published “Manual of Physical Geology” (3rd edition 1883).
1875 Professor of Mathematics at Leeds (in addition to Geology). For several years held Lectureship in Geology at School of Military Engineering at Chatham.
1886 Elected F.R.S.
1888 Appointed Professor of Geology at Oxford (successor to Prestwich).
1890 President Geological Section, British Association, Leeds.
Examiner to London University, Science and Art Department (Asst), Durham University, Home and Indian Civil Service.
1896 Died August 19th near Oxford

Publications[edit]

1864 Memoir: "Banbury" (1864)
1866 Memoir: "Stockport" (1866) with E. Hull.
1879 Tadcaster" (1879) with Aveline, Dakyns, C. Ward, Russell.
1871 Memoir: "Dewsbury" (1871) with Dakyns, C. Ward, Russell.
1878 Memoir: "Barnsley" (1878)
1879 Memoir: "Wakefield" (1879)
1869 Memoir: "North Derbyshire (1869) Le Neve Foster and Dakyns
1887 Memoir: "North Derbyshire" 2nd edition (1887) with Strahan.
1878 Memoir: "Yorkshire Coalfield" (1878) with Russell, Dakyns.
1869 Memoir, part of Yorkshire Coalfield" *1869) with Dakyns and C. Ward.
Carboniferous rocks of North of England".
Papers
Sub-aerial denudation".
Geology of Donegal".
Geology of Malvern Hills".
Essays upon Scientific Subjects.
Birth and Growth of Worlds.
Manual of Physical Geology.
BGS Library catalogue entries
Robinson, E. ; Dakyns, J.R. ; Ward, J.C. ; Green, A.H. And did those feet, in ancient times? : Amateur Geologist XIII(2) p22-26.
Green, A.H. Geology - Part 1 Physical geology. 4th ed.
1864 Hull, E. ; Green, A.H. (1864). Explanation of horizontal section, sheet 41 (Drawn from south west to north east across... the north Staffordshire Coalfield...) Geol Surv G B Explan Horiz Vert Sect (London). (Geol Surv G B Explan Horiz Vert Sect). London : HMSO.
1864 Hull, E. ; Green, A.H. (1864). Explanation of horizontal section, sheet 42 (Drawn from west to east across...the North Staffordshire Coalfield...). (Geol Surv G B Explan Horiz Vert Sect). London : HMSO.
1865 Hull, E. ; Green, A.H. (1865). Explanation of horizontal sections, Sheet 65. (Geol Surv G B Explan Horiz Vert Sect). London : HMSO.
1867 Green, A.H. (1867). Explanation of horizontal section, Sheet 18. (Geol Surv G B Explan Horiz Vert Sect). London : HMSO.
1868 Hull, E. ; Green, A.H. (1868). Explanation of horizontal section, Sheet 70 : reference Geological One-inch maps, 81 N.W. : 81 N.E. : and 82 N.W.. (Geol Surv G B Explan Horiz Vert Sect).
1873 Hull, E. ; Green, A.H. (1873). Explanation of horizontal section, Sheet 69 : reference Geological One-inch maps, 81 N.W. : 81 N.E. : and 82 N.W. : Six-inch maps of Yorkshire, 293, 294, 295, 289, 290. (Geol Surv G B Explan Horiz Vert Sect). London : HMSO.
1878 Green, A.H. ; Thorpe, T.E. (1878). Coal; its history and uses. London : Macmillan and Co..
1878 Green, A.H. (1878). Explanation of horizontal section, Sheet 95. (Geol Surv G B Explan Horiz Vert Sect). London : HMSO.
1878 Green, A.H. (1878). Explanation of horizontal section, Sheet 96. (Geol Surv G B Explan Horiz Vert Sect). London : HMSO.
1878 Green, A.H. (1878). Explanation of horizontal section, Sheet 98. (Geol Surv G B Explan Horiz Vert Sect). London : HMSO.
1878 Green, A.H. (1878). Explanation of horizontal section, Sheet 99. (Geol Surv G B Explan Horiz Vert Sect). London : HMSO.
1878 Green, A.H. (1878). Explanation of horizontal section, Sheet 100. (Geol Surv G B Explan Horiz Vert Sect). London : HMSO.
1878 Green, A.H. (1878). Explanation of horizontal sections, Sheet 88. (Geol Surv G B Explan Horiz Vert Sect). London : HMSO.
1878 Green, A.H. (1878). Explanation of horizontal sections, Sheets 89 & 90. (Geol Surv G B Explan Horiz Vert Sect). London : HMSO.
1878 Green, A.H. (1878). Explanation of horizontal sections, Sheets 91 & 92. (Geol Surv G B Explan Horiz Vert Sect). London : HMSO.
1878 Green, A.H. (1878). Explanation of horizontal sections, Sheets 93 & 94. (Geol Surv G B Explan Horiz Vert Sect). London : HMSO.
1878 Green, A.H. (1898). First lessons in geology. Oxford : Clarendon Press.
1882 Green, A.H. (1882). Geology . Part 1, Physical geology. 3rd and enl. ed.. London : Rivingtons.

Biographies and obituaries[edit]

Hicks, H. Obituary - Professor A.H. Green. [In Anniversary Address.]. Proceedings of the Geological Society in Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society. v. 53 p.lii-liv. 1897

Miall, L.C. Obituary - Professor A.H. Green, F.R.S., F.G.S. Proceedings of the Yorkshire Geological Society. v. 13 p.232-233.

Obituary - Alexander Henry Green, M.A., F.R.S., F.G.S. Born 10th October 1832, died 19th August 1896. Geologists Magazine. New Series. v. 3 p.480. 1896

Obituary - Alexander Henry Green, F.R.S. Mineralogical Magazine. v. 11 p.147. 1897

[ https://www.ypsyork.org/resources/yorkshire-scientists-and-innovators/ah_green/ Alexander Henry Green, FRS Alexander Henry Green, FRS (1832-1896)] Yorkshire Philosophical Society website

BGS archives[edit]

Ref No Title Description
GSM/GL/Bw/29/10,55 A H Green: Letters on his re-employment.
GSM/GL/Cm/2 Explanation of Sheet 203 new series with geology around Bedford, with additional notes by A.H...
GSM/GL/Gr Alexander Henry Green Green joined the Survey in 1861. He produced a large memoir on 'The Geology of the Yorkshire...
GSM/GL/Gr/54 Notes on the geology of Bedford. Explanation of Sheet 203 New Series with notes by Green and J.R...

From the archives: Green on Greenstone[edit]

By David Bate

Alexander Henry Green was born at Maidstone in 1832, the son of the Rev. T. S. Green, a classical scholar and Master of Ashby-de-la Zouch Grammar School, where Green junior received his initial education before entering Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. In 1861 he was appointed Assistant Geologist at the Geological Survey of England and Wales, attaining the rank of Geologist in 1867.

During his time with the Survey he worked initially in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire before transferring to the Yorkshire and north Derbyshire coalfield. He was sole or joint author of a number of Geological Survey one inch to the mile (old series) sheet memoirs including those for Banbury (1864), Stockport (1866), Tadcaster (1870), Dewsbury (1871), Barnsley (1878), and Wakefield (1879). He jointly authored a district memoir on The geology of the Carboniferous Limestone, Yoredale rocks, and Millstone Grit of north Derbyshire (1869, second edition 1887). His most substantial contribution for the Survey was as principal author of Geology of the Yorkshire Coalfield (1878, 823 pp).

Green resigned from the Survey in 1874 on his appointment to the Professorship of Geology (and later of Mathematics) at the newly founded Yorkshire College in Leeds, and while there he continued to undertake some official Survey work. The British Geological Survey possesses more than fifty of his field notebooks, section books and sketch books, dating from between about 1853 and 1895. His careful and meticulous notes are embellished with pencil sketches and watercolours of exceptional artistic merit. Some of these sketches (such as that illustrated here) demonstrate a whimsical sense of humour, an attribute confirmed by one of his contemporaries at the Geological Survey, Edward Greenly.

The following incident related by A. H. Green is fairly typical of that experienced by many a Geological Survey mapping geologist in the nineteenth century and comes from Greenly’s autobiographical A hand through time (1938): One day, he [Green] became aware that a farmer was watching him with suspicion. Wherever he went, the farmer went. Presently, the man came up, asked him what he was doing, and went away, but returned and invited him in to tea. “I really must apologize, Sir, for watching you like I did. But you see, it was this way. The constable he come and sez:—‘Farmer Long, you remember them ricks as was burnt, and how we couldn’t never find out who it was as done it. Well, there’s a chap about here now as I can’t make out. He don’t go along the road like an honest man: he’s always pokin’ about into all sorts of holes and corners. And if I were you, Farmer Long, I should keep an eye on that there chap.’”

The value of Green’s notebooks came to prominence in 1973 in consequence of the Lofthouse Colliery disaster near Wakefield in Yorkshire, where an inrush of water claimed the lives of seven miners. A Public Inquiry disclosed that the accident could have been avoided had a vital piece of information contained in one of Green’s notebooks been consulted prior to the commencement of coal extraction beneath the abandoned Old Low Laithes Colliery. Follow-ing the publication of a Parliamentary Report in September 1973, a detailed geographically-referenced index was prepared of the contents of all Geological Survey field notebooks up to that time.

Alexander Henry Green 1832-1896[edit]

Extract with permission of the author from: Cooper A.H. Yorkshire geology as seen through the eyes of notable British Geological Survey geologists 1862-200046-67 in Myerscough, R and Wallace, V. Famous Geologists of Yorkshire. York. ISBN 978-1-906604-58-5. PDF on NORA

Green was one of the first staff taken on by Murchison as the survey of the country headed north into Yorkshire. He was educated at Ashby Grammar School and had an impressive knowledge of the local geology. In fact his knowledge was so good that when Andrew Ramsay (who later to become the Director) visited the area he acknowledged Green as the local authority and suggested he should join the Survey . Following his university education at Gonville and Caius College Cambridge, Green joined the Survey in 1861 .

Green embarked on mapping and understanding the Derbyshire and Yorkshire Coalfields, and the way he looked at and mapped the landscape was the same as we still do today (though now we use air photographs and computer generated surface models). The frontispiece of his coalfield memoir, engraved from one of his impressive field sketches shows the scarps, crests and dip slopes typical of coalfield geology, while his cross-section illustrated the basis for drawing the geological lines on the map. A number of his excellent watercolours of landscapes showing the geology are held in the British Geological Survey archives.

His recording was meticulous and it is sad to note that the 1973 disaster at Lofthouse Colliery near Wakefield could possibly have been averted if the relevant information held in one of Green’s notebooks had been seen and understood . He recorded the deepening of a shaft that about 100 years later was tunnelled into flooding the mine with mud and water killing 7 men. Following that disaster all the British Geological Survey notebooks were indexed by two Coal Board surveyors Happs and Hall, which enabled these important information sources to be searched and thoroughly investigated before proceeding with coal extraction.

Green stayed with the Survey until 1874 when he took the professorship in Geology at the Yorkshire College – later to become Leeds University. In 1878 the Geology of the Yorkshire Coalfield was published with co-authors Russell, Dakyns, Ward, Fox-Strangways, Dalton and Holmes. This memoir was far larger than any other, with 823 pages and a price of one guinea (£1.05); this was at a time when a normal memoir priced at about one shilling (5 new pence). Bailey commented that it was “the largest Survey memoir, I hope for all time”, but it contains so much useful information that this statement is rather unfair. Green eventually moved in 1888 to become the Professor of Geology at Oxford.