Edward Battersby Bailey

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Bailey was in the great tradition of English eccentrics - he lost his eye winning the Military Cross in France during the First World War.

He was in the Scottish Office for 30 years, and later became one of the most eccentric Directors of the Survey. Bailey stories abound....

'....he had a habit when in the field of leaping into the first stream he saw to get his boots soaked, which avoided any later reluctance to get his feet wet; his naked plunges into Highland burns on the coldest days to emphasise his 'machismo'; his habit, on leaving his lodgings with a packed lunch, of sitting down about half an hour out saying "Let's eat it now and get it over with".' (H.E.Wilson)


Date Details
1881 Born July 1st at Kendal. Educated at Kendal Grammar School and at Clare College, Cambridge. (1st in Nat. Science & Physics.)
1902 Joined Geological Survey (Scotland). D.G. 1919.
1929 Survey Service terminated 24/12/29.
1929 Appointed to Chair of Geology at Glasgow in succession to J.W. Gregory. Elected Professor 12/12/29. Term began 1/1/30, lectures 6/1/30.
1930 F.R.S.

Biographies and obituaries[edit]

1937 Bailey returns as Director From: Bailey, Sir Edward. Geological Survey of Great Britain. London: Thomas Murby, 1952.

Richey, J.E. Obituary - Sir Edward Battersby Bailey, Kt.M.C., F.R.S. (Director of Geological Survey). Proceedings of the Geological Society. v. 1628 p.197-198. 1965

Obituary - Sir Edward Battersby Bailey. Born in 1881, died 19th March 1965. Proceedings of the Geologists Association. v. 77 p.157-159. 1966

Glasgow Herald 25/2/30.

Prof. E. B. Bailey, F.R.S.. Nature 139, 102 (1937). https://doi.org/10.1038/139102b0

BGS archives[edit]

Ref No Title Description
GSM/DR/By Edward B.Bailey Bailey joined the Survey in 1902 and was immediately sent to Scotland.He became District...
GSM/DR/By/S/1 Correspondence to range of geologists on various issues inc fossils from Mull. Letters from and to E.B.Bailey inc: Flett, Kitchin, Gibson, B.N.Peach, T.Robertson, H.H.Thomas...
GSM/DR/By/S/5 Mss of paper: 'A hundred years of Geology, 1851 - 1951', with copy of the paper and letter from...
GSM/DR/By/S/6 Draft report on the geology of Gibralter by E.B.Bailey and C.P.Chatwin, with correspondence.
GSM/DR/Sb/4/1 Correspondence and papers inc letters from E.B.Bailey, Bisat, and Howell
GSM/DR/Sb/6 E B Bailey
GSM/DR/Sb/6/1 E B Bailey Correspondence from and relating to E B Bailey.
GSM/DR/Sb/6/2 E B Bailey - Letters to Pugh and others relating to his history of the Survey
GSM/DR/Sb/6/3 Letters and notes about E B Bailey Relating to obituaries of E B Bailey
GSM/DR/Sb/6/4 Autobiographical notes - E B Bailey
GSM/DR/Sb/7/1 Photographs 1) B.F. Howell, E.S. Cobbold, R. Kozlowski, C.E. Ressel in Poland 1931. 2) R. Richter at View...
GSM/DR/Sb/7/5 Home Guard Photographs Photographs of the GSM and LR Company of the 58th London Battalion. Includes Stubblefield and...
GSM/GL/Cl/15 Papers on the Carruthers - Bailey dispute re tectonics of the Glencoe- Ballachulish area. 1...
GSM/GL/Ct/4 Correspondence: letters to H.Allen, E.B.Bailey, Hester, Kitchin, Stubblefield, H.H.Thomas and others
GSM/GL/Pc/1 Misc papers including notes on anthropods, geology and glaciation of Scotland. Comments on paper by E.B.Bailey and horizontal sections through Scotland
GSM/GX/Ar/1 Correspondence: letters to E.B.Bailey, C.P.Chatwin, H.G.Dimes, C.H.Dinham, and replies to E.E.L...

Edward Battersby Bailey as Director of the Survey[edit]

Extract from: From: Wilson, H.E. Down to earth - one hundred and fifty years of the British Geological Survey. Edinburgh:Scottish Academic Press, 1985. [In all directions: developments under Sir Henry's fourteen successors In all directions: developments under Sir Henry's fourteen successors]

After a period when McClintock acted as locum, Smith was succeeded as Director by E. B. Bailey, who had been in the Scottish office for thirty years but had left for the Chair of Geology at Glasgow University in 1930.

Bailey was in the great tradition of English eccentrics. He was described by Aubrey Strahan as an 'inverted dandy' because of his appearance when he visited London — hatless, a fisherman's jersey, shorts and stout brogues. He was said to have once entered Fortnum and Masons and demanded a half-penny worth of salt, and other legends about him were legion — his habit in the field of leaping into the first stream he saw to get his boots soaked, which avoided any later reluctance to getting his feet wet; his naked plunges into Highland burns on the coldest days to emphasise his 'machismo', his habit, on leaving his lodgings with a packed lunch, of sitting down about half an hour out and saying 'Let's eat it now and get it over with'.

He had lost an eye winning the M.C. in France and was subsequently given the irreverent nickname 'Cyclops'. On one occasion Welch, himself a fairly forcible character, put his head into one of the rooms in Exhibition Road and demanded loudly 'Has anyone seen old Cyclops', failing to observe that Trotter, who was also monocular, was in the room. The results were dramatic. Trotter was not given to diplomacy either — he was reputed to have remarked, after relieving himself against a tree in the field, 'That's what I think of your mapping!'.

Flett and Bailey were married to sisters — Orcadians — and had worked together when Flett was in charge of the Edinburgh Office from 1911-1920. The mutual antipathy which developed during this period grew to become a long-standing feud. To their wives they were said to refer to each other as 'your brother- in-law'. While

Flett referred to Bailey as 'mad', Bailey tried to provoke his Director in every way — geological and administrative. On one occasion, angered by the demand for some return, he telegraphed London for '100 sheets of lunch paper', referring to the ample proforma which clearly had more than one use.

As Bailey details in his history, things reached a climax in the late 1920s over what he regarded as 'Scientific Liberty'. Flett had, since his days in Edinburgh, insisted that all publications by Survey staff, whether on official work or private research, should be submitted for the Director's approval. This Bailey regarded as persecution because he, totally committed to geology in his own as well as official time, had studied the existing field maps for critical areas worth re-examination, and subsequently spent his leave on this. Flett's paranoia can be judged from his order that field maps, freely available to the general public, were only to be shown to Survey staff with his permission! It was at this point that Bailey left for the chair of Geology at Glasgow University.

When he returned as Director he obtained the promotion of McLintock to the new post of Deputy Director to allow him to depute all the administrative chores. He stopped the practice of English field staff being moved to the Highlands for summer work and established, for the first time, a rational District organisation for the country. Until 1937 'District Geologists' were responsible for only the area on which their men were working, which sometimes had produced such eccentricities as the 'Forest of Dean and Cumberland Unit'. Bailey divided England and Wales into six districts and gave each of his District Geologists responsibility for all that happened in his whole barony — not just the limited areas of mapping. This system proved effective, with occasional modifications of district boundaries, for the next forty-five years.

In 1936 the first non-field Survey unit, save for the historic Palaeontologist's and Petrographer's outfits, was established — the Water Department. Bailey also set about closing the district offices, of which he strongly disapproved. York was closed in 1938 but Manchester and Newcastle survived, largely due to the tenacity of their staffs (See p.65).

World War II, like its predecessor, caused a great deal of disturbance to the mapping programme, which had been the main reason for the existence of the Survey for a century. McLintock summarised the wartime achievements of the Survey in the first post-war report of the Geological Survey Board, as did Bailey in his history (1952). Most of the work was concerned with indigenous raw materials — iron ore, bauxite, glass sand, feldspar, mica — together with an intensification of work on groundwater and coal and the first investigations into sources of radio-active minerals.

The war prevented the fulfilment of Bailey's plans for the Survey but he instituted the Bulletin series of publications to succeed and develop the former Part II of the Summary of Progress. He spent long hours editing the mimeographed Wartime Pamphlets and drafting the northern sheet of the Ten-mile Geological Map of Great Britain, though this was not published till after his retirement.

Bailey was regarded by his contemporaries with a mixture of amusement and contempt for his eccentric behaviour, though with respect, tempered with exasperation, for his scientific achievements. Unhappily, he so alienated some of his senior staff that they boycotted his farewell presentation.

When Bailey retired in 1945 he was succeeded by William Francis Porter McLintock. McLintock's regime was certainly a milestone in G.S.M's. history. The rehabilitation of the Museum and office had to be effected and the dispersed collections and library had to be reassembled. Staff recruitment and publication of Maps and Memoirs was resumed.