John Young M.D., F.G.S.

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Date Details
1835 Born at Edinburgh. Educated at Edinburgh High School and University.
1857 Took M.D. degree.
Became resident physician in the Infirmary for about a year; then joined staff of Royal Edinburgh Asylum.
1861 Joined Scottish Geological Survey.
Undertook re-survey of Fife and the Lothians for purposes of “drift” mapping. Transferred to Peebleshire, mapped area around Upper Tweed.
Then stationed in St. Andrews to assist in new survey of Ochils. Memoir: “East Lothian” (1866) with Howell and Geikie.
1866 Resigned from Survey.
Appointed to Chair of Natural History at Glasgow (held for 36 years). In addition to zoological work, lectured on Geology and was Keeper of the Hunterian Museum.

Biographies and obituaries[edit]

Obituary - John Young, LL.D., F.G.S. Born 1823, died 13th March 1900. Geologists Magazine. New Series. v. 7 p.382-384. 1900

Teall, J.J.H. Obituary - John Young, LL.D. [In Anniversary Address.]. Proceedings of the Geological Society in Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society. v. 57 p.lxi. 1901

History of the Geological Society of Glasgow (1908) p. 210

John Young (professor of natural history) — Wikipedia article

John Young The University of Glasgow Story

McKendrick, J. Prof. John Young . Nature 67, 249 (1903).


Chief geological work in palaeontology and glacial geology. Wide knowledge in biology, geology, history, philosophy and anthropology – shown in paper to Glasgow Geological Society From geology to history.

Published text-books for schools on physical geography (1874).

Paper for the Transactions Geological Society Glasgow: On some points in surface geology of South highlands.

Paper for the Transactions Geological Society Glasgow: Local unconformity in sections near Bishopbriggs.

Paper for the Transactions Geological Society Glasgow: Some points in geological terminology

Paper for the Transactions Geological Society Glasgow: On mammalian remains from Cresswell Crag bone caves.

Paper for the Transactions Geological Society Glasgow: A.C. Ramsay.

BGS archives[edit]

Professor John Young, M.D., F.G.S.[1][edit]

Extract from History of the Geological Society of Glasgow (1908) p. 210 (Text Public domain)

John Young was born at Edinburgh in 1835, and was educated at the High School and Edinburgh University. He entered the Medical Faculty, and graduated M.D. in 1857. After being resident physician in the infirmary for about a year, he joined the staff of the Royal Edinburgh Asylum, where he was a colleague of Dr. Yellow- lees, of Glasgow. As a boy he had been a companion of Archibald and James Geikie, and their influence probably had much to do with the strong bent his mind had for natural history. In 1861 he joined the Scottish Geological Survey, his only colleagues at that time being H. H. Howell and Archibald Geikie, with A. C. Ramsay as Director for Scotland. A few months later James Geikie joined the staff, and for some years their fields of work were never far apart. Young's first duty lay in the re-survey of Fife and the Lothians for the purpose of constructing " drift " maps to supplement those illustrating the solid geology of the region. He was then transferred to Peeblesshire, where for some months he was engaged in mapping the area round the upper Tweed. Next he was stationed in St. Andrews to assist in beginning the survey of the Ochils.

In 1864 the work of the Survey was being carried on chiefly in Ayrshire, and, while crossing the Girvan Water, Young slipped on a boulder and broke his knee-pan. He refused to give his leg time to mend properly, with the and result that he was slightly lamed for life. Fortunately, soon after this the Chair of Natural History in Glasgow University became vacant, and in 1866 he received the appointment. This post he held for thirty-six years, and for most of that time, in addition to his zoological work, he lectured on Geology and was Keeper of the Hunterian Museum.

Perhaps Young's most prominent characteristic was his versatility, which could not find scope enough even in these manifold duties. He organised practical work in zoology; his lectures on geology were of the most interesting and stimulating nature; he was an authority on old books and coins; he sketched and painted with considerable ability; he was an eager student of foreign literature; there was hardly a branch of science or letters in which he was not widely read. For many years before his death Professor Young was in some respects the most conspicuous figure in Glasgow University. Among the students his name was synonymous for what was unconventional, brilliant, and eccentric. Innumerable were the stories told of his sardonic wit, his disregard of accepted proprieties, his hatred of sham or pretence. In some respects opinions might differ regarding his lectures, but, at any rate, they were absolutely free from one great defect, they were never dull. His irritability was practically all assumed for his own entertainment and that of his students, who very soon got to know the immense geniality that really marked the man. The writer, who assumed a small part of Professor Young's work after his retiral, can recall with gratitude the kindliness with which he was received by him even when shattered by ill-health, and only a few months before his death.

Professor Young had the defects of his qualities. His brilliance in so many pursuits prevented him from becoming pre-eminent in any one. His chief work in geology was done in the branches of palseontology and Glacial geology. A paper well worth perusal, and one that is eminently characteristic of the many-sidedness of the man, is " From Geology to History," which appeared in volume iii. of our Transactions, and which exhibits a wealth of knowledge in biology, geology, history, philology, and anthropology. Another able contribution was the notice he wrote on the death of Sir A. C. Ramsay, his old chief in the Geological Survey. Professor Young always took a keen interest in educational affairs, and in 1874 he published an admirable text-book for schools on physical geography. His contributions to our Transactions are as follows:

On Some Points in the Surface Geology of the Southern Highlands. (Abstract.) Vol. ii., pp. 266-267.

Local Unconformity as illustrated in Sections near Bishopbriggs. (With John Young.) Vol. ii., pp. 283-291.

From Geology to History. Vol. iii., pp. 341-367.

Some Points in Geological Terminology. Vol. iv., pp. 109-123.

On Mammalian Remains from Cresswell Crag Bone Caves." Vol. ix., pp. 210-212.

The Late Sir A. C. Ramsay, Director-General of the Geological Survey of Great Britain. Vol. ix., pp. 256-263.


  1. For many of the facts the writer is indebted to the biographical notice by Dr. Yellowlees and Professor James Geikie, prefaced to " Essays and Addresses."