Editing 1835 De la Beche starts alone - Geological Survey of Great Britain (by E.B. Bailey)

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Another of De la Beche's publications, his Theoretical Researches in Geology, 1834, furnishes a compact statement of the scientific outlook with which its author took up his appointment on the Geological Survey—and here one may interpolate that this appointment marked the second stage in the development of continued governmental scientific research in Britain, initiated in 1675 by the founding of the Royal Observatory at Greenwich ; the position of the Natural History branch of the British Museum is a little difficult to assess, because in early days its research activities tended to be intermittent. In this little book we find De la Beche willing to accept La Place's hypothesis ' that our solar system is a condensation of nebulous matter,' and to consider it extremely probable that the earth has consolidated from a hot fluid spheroid. In his discussion of this and other matters he shows a commendable knowledge of geo-chemistry and physics. He thinks that Elie de Beaumont is probably correct in attributing mountain chains to wrinkling of the earth's surface consequent upon loss of internal heat. He does not follow Hutton and Lyell in the view that the geological record shows ' no vestige of a beginning—no prospect of an end.' On the other hand he interprets gneiss and mica-schist as ' inferior stratified rocks' formed in the earliest hot ocean, and not, as Hutton and Lyell claimed, normal rocks affected by regional metamorphism. He also shows himself a mild catastrophist, rebuking Lyell for thinking that man in his brief experience has seen the full power of Nature's activities. He himself considers the contortion of the Alpine strata as a product of rapid yielding, and commends de Beaumont's ' very simple suggestion …that during the last elevating movement which took place in the Alps, the heat evolved from the necessary fissures suddenly melted the snows which previously existed on these mountains, and by these means a large body of water was produced, which swept the blocks through the valleys into those situations where we now find them.' He is also prepared to invoke floods actuated by sudden submarine elevation of mountains as an explanation for the distribution of northern erratic blocks and for much erosion of land forms. He accepts granite as well as basalt as igneous; though for some purposes he prefers to divide rocks into unstratified and stratified, rather than igneous and aqueous, so as not to prejudge every question connected with their origin.' He is fully aware of the existence of ancient lavas, as well as intrusions, a matter over which Hutton had stumbled ; and he recognises ancient volcanic ashes. He gives much attention to the use of fossils in geology. Certain aspects of his treatment of this matter are outlined below, starting with a quotation from his Chapter xi, which will serve among other things as a further illustration of its author's tangled style of expression, strongly reminiscent of translated German.
 
Another of De la Beche's publications, his Theoretical Researches in Geology, 1834, furnishes a compact statement of the scientific outlook with which its author took up his appointment on the Geological Survey—and here one may interpolate that this appointment marked the second stage in the development of continued governmental scientific research in Britain, initiated in 1675 by the founding of the Royal Observatory at Greenwich ; the position of the Natural History branch of the British Museum is a little difficult to assess, because in early days its research activities tended to be intermittent. In this little book we find De la Beche willing to accept La Place's hypothesis ' that our solar system is a condensation of nebulous matter,' and to consider it extremely probable that the earth has consolidated from a hot fluid spheroid. In his discussion of this and other matters he shows a commendable knowledge of geo-chemistry and physics. He thinks that Elie de Beaumont is probably correct in attributing mountain chains to wrinkling of the earth's surface consequent upon loss of internal heat. He does not follow Hutton and Lyell in the view that the geological record shows ' no vestige of a beginning—no prospect of an end.' On the other hand he interprets gneiss and mica-schist as ' inferior stratified rocks' formed in the earliest hot ocean, and not, as Hutton and Lyell claimed, normal rocks affected by regional metamorphism. He also shows himself a mild catastrophist, rebuking Lyell for thinking that man in his brief experience has seen the full power of Nature's activities. He himself considers the contortion of the Alpine strata as a product of rapid yielding, and commends de Beaumont's ' very simple suggestion …that during the last elevating movement which took place in the Alps, the heat evolved from the necessary fissures suddenly melted the snows which previously existed on these mountains, and by these means a large body of water was produced, which swept the blocks through the valleys into those situations where we now find them.' He is also prepared to invoke floods actuated by sudden submarine elevation of mountains as an explanation for the distribution of northern erratic blocks and for much erosion of land forms. He accepts granite as well as basalt as igneous; though for some purposes he prefers to divide rocks into unstratified and stratified, rather than igneous and aqueous, so as not to prejudge every question connected with their origin.' He is fully aware of the existence of ancient lavas, as well as intrusions, a matter over which Hutton had stumbled ; and he recognises ancient volcanic ashes. He gives much attention to the use of fossils in geology. Certain aspects of his treatment of this matter are outlined below, starting with a quotation from his Chapter xi, which will serve among other things as a further illustration of its author's tangled style of expression, strongly reminiscent of translated German.
  
::After the remains of animals and vegetables, entombed at various depths and at different periods in the crust of the globe, were fully recognised as the exuvi. of organic life which had once existed on the surface of the earth, it became a somewhat prevalent opinion, particularly after the researches of Cuvier and Brongniart round Paris, and those of Smith in England, that contemporaneous deposits were characterized by the presence of similar organic remains. During the time that such deposits were supposed to be distinguished by similar mineralogical composition, and viewing the subject the other way, that similar mineralogical structure at once proclaimed the geological date of the rock, it was considered somewhat heretical to doubt the possibility of discovering any other than a certain series of organic remains in a given fossiliferous rock wherever found.
+
:After the remains of animals and vegetables, entombed at various depths and at different periods in the crust of the globe, were fully recognised as the exuvi. of organic life which had once existed on the surface of the earth, it became a somewhat prevalent opinion, particularly after the researches of Cuvier and Brongniart round Paris, and those of Smith in England, that contemporaneous deposits were characterized by the presence of similar organic remains. During the time that such deposits were supposed to be distinguished by similar mineralogical composition, and viewing the subject the other way, that similar mineralogical structure at once proclaimed the geological date of the rock, it was considered somewhat heretical to doubt the possibility of discovering any other than a certain series of organic remains in a given fossiliferous rock wherever found.
  
::This opinion, though somewhat modified, is still so far entertained that similar organic remains are supposed to characterize contemporaneous deposits to considerable distances ; at least to this extent, that if a belemnite be discovered on the flanks of the Himalayan mountains, there is a disposition to consider, a priori, that it must belong to some part of a series of rocks in which this genus is found in Western Europe. Fossil shells of similar species are also supposed to characterize the same deposit over considerable areas.
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:This opinion, though somewhat modified, is still so far entertained that similar organic remains are supposed to characterize contemporaneous deposits to considerable distances ; at least to this extent, that if a belemnite be discovered on the flanks of the Himalayan mountains, there is a disposition to consider, a priori, that it must belong to some part of a series of rocks in which this genus is found in Western Europe. Fossil shells of similar species are also supposed to characterize the same deposit over considerable areas.
  
::In the present comparatively advanced state of geology, it behoves us carefully to weigh the conditions under which animal and vegetable life now exist, before we assume that a given deposit can or cannot be determined.
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:In the present comparatively advanced state of geology, it behoves us carefully to weigh the conditions under which animal and vegetable life now exist, before we assume that a given deposit can or cannot be determined.
  
 
Then follows a long discussion which takes into account the complexities of modern distribution of life-forms controlled, as they are, by habitat-condition and also by pure geography. De la Beche points out that without any change in the sum total of species mere migration consequent upon local alteration of depth, climate, etc., would furnish successive strata with contrasted faunas, and he emphasises that these faunal successions would be apt to give totally erroneous time-correlations if subjected uncritically to what may be called Smithian analysis. All this is true ; but almost, despite himself, De la Beche accepted as a fact, proved by geological observation, that change of life-forms has been in large measure controlled by time, and not merely by migration. His summary includes the following: fossils ' teach us that man is a comparatively recent creature on the face of the globe ; that creation has succeeded creation on its surface.' As regards this last point, in so far as it concerns the cause of the observed time-controlled life-changes, he is less dogmatic in another passage, which reads: ' There are likely to be few, seeing the beauty of design manifest in creation and so apparent in animals and vegetables, who will not rather consider there has been a succession of creations as new conditions arose, than that there should be an accommodating property in organic existence which might ultimately convert a polypus into a man.'
 
Then follows a long discussion which takes into account the complexities of modern distribution of life-forms controlled, as they are, by habitat-condition and also by pure geography. De la Beche points out that without any change in the sum total of species mere migration consequent upon local alteration of depth, climate, etc., would furnish successive strata with contrasted faunas, and he emphasises that these faunal successions would be apt to give totally erroneous time-correlations if subjected uncritically to what may be called Smithian analysis. All this is true ; but almost, despite himself, De la Beche accepted as a fact, proved by geological observation, that change of life-forms has been in large measure controlled by time, and not merely by migration. His summary includes the following: fossils ' teach us that man is a comparatively recent creature on the face of the globe ; that creation has succeeded creation on its surface.' As regards this last point, in so far as it concerns the cause of the observed time-controlled life-changes, he is less dogmatic in another passage, which reads: ' There are likely to be few, seeing the beauty of design manifest in creation and so apparent in animals and vegetables, who will not rather consider there has been a succession of creations as new conditions arose, than that there should be an accommodating property in organic existence which might ultimately convert a polypus into a man.'
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The map sheets, to which Greenough referred, are what are now called the Old Series one-inch sheets, each covering an area of some 965 square miles, including in coastal districts a proportion, small or big, of sea. The explanatory memoir, which he mentioned, actually appeared in 1839, after it had been extended to include Cornwall as well as Devon and West Somerset. At the time Greenough spoke he probably knew that his hope for a continuance of De la Beche's survey was likely to be fulfilled. At any rate, at the next anniversary meeting of the Society, on the loth February, 1836, his successor in the chair, Charles Lyell, was able to say:
 
The map sheets, to which Greenough referred, are what are now called the Old Series one-inch sheets, each covering an area of some 965 square miles, including in coastal districts a proportion, small or big, of sea. The explanatory memoir, which he mentioned, actually appeared in 1839, after it had been extended to include Cornwall as well as Devon and West Somerset. At the time Greenough spoke he probably knew that his hope for a continuance of De la Beche's survey was likely to be fulfilled. At any rate, at the next anniversary meeting of the Society, on the loth February, 1836, his successor in the chair, Charles Lyell, was able to say:
  
::Early in the Spring of last year an application was made by the Master-General and Board of Ordnance [Col. Colby once again] to Dr. Buckland and Mr. Sedgwick, as professors of geology in the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and to myself, as President of this Society, td offer our opinion as to the expediency of combining a geological examination of the English counties with the geographical survey now in progress. In compliance with this requisition we drew up a joint report, in which we endeavoured to state fully our opinion as to the great advantages which must accrue from such an undertaking, not only as calculated to promote geological science, which alone would be a sufficient object, but also as a work of great practical utility, bearing on agriculture, mining, road-making, the formation of canals and railroads, and other branches of national industry. The enlightened views of the Board of Ordnance were warmly seconded by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, and a grant was obtained from the Treasury to defray the additional expenses which will be incurred in colouring geologically the Ordnance county maps. This arrangement may justly be regarded as an economical one, as those surveyors who have cultivated geology can with small increase of labour, when exploring the minute topography of the ground, trace out the boundaries of the principal mineral groups. This end, however, could only be accomplished by securing the cooperation of an experienced and able geologist, who might organise and direct the operations ; and I congratulate the Society that our Foreign Secretary, Mr. De la Beche, has been chosen to discharge an office for which he is so eminently qualified.
+
:Early in the Spring of last year an application was made by the Master-General and Board of Ordnance [Col. Colby once again] to Dr. Buckland and Mr. Sedgwick, as professors of geology in the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and to myself, as President of this Society, td offer our opinion as to the expediency of combining a geological examination of the English counties with the geographical survey now in progress. In compliance with this requisition we drew up a joint report, in which we endeavoured to state fully our opinion as to the great advantages which must accrue from such an undertaking, not only as calculated to promote geological science, which alone would be a sufficient object, but also as a work of great practical utility, bearing on agriculture, mining, road-making, the formation of canals and railroads, and other branches of national industry. The enlightened views of the Board of Ordnance were warmly seconded by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, and a grant was obtained from the Treasury to defray the additional expenses which will be incurred in colouring geologically the Ordnance county maps. This arrangement may justly be regarded as an economical one, as those surveyors who have cultivated geology can with small increase of labour, when exploring the minute topography of the ground, trace out the boundaries of the principal mineral groups. This end, however, could only be accomplished by securing the cooperation of an experienced and able geologist, who might organise and direct the operations ; and I congratulate the Society that our Foreign Secretary, Mr. De la Beche, has been chosen to discharge an office for which he is so eminently qualified.
  
 
The steps taken in 1835 confirmed the policy adopted in 1832 and opened up a prospect of its application to the country at large. There has been a little confusion in certain quarters as to what it meant financially. F. J. North, who took extracts from Ordnance Survey correspondence, since destroyed by enemy action, tells us that De la Beche seems to have already received £300 expenses to cover his eight sheets of Devon (completed to their rectangular margins). Now that he was instructed to commence the Geological Survey of Cornwall without delay,' it was on the understanding that the expenses of the new work would come to about £1,000 a year, and that he would be given a salary of £500. A limited amount of mapping assistance was supplied by two geologically minded officers of the Ordnance Survey, and other help by private geologists investigating the same field. Previous publications were also very useful, many of them in the Transactions of the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall, which had been founded in 1814.
 
The steps taken in 1835 confirmed the policy adopted in 1832 and opened up a prospect of its application to the country at large. There has been a little confusion in certain quarters as to what it meant financially. F. J. North, who took extracts from Ordnance Survey correspondence, since destroyed by enemy action, tells us that De la Beche seems to have already received £300 expenses to cover his eight sheets of Devon (completed to their rectangular margins). Now that he was instructed to commence the Geological Survey of Cornwall without delay,' it was on the understanding that the expenses of the new work would come to about £1,000 a year, and that he would be given a salary of £500. A limited amount of mapping assistance was supplied by two geologically minded officers of the Ordnance Survey, and other help by private geologists investigating the same field. Previous publications were also very useful, many of them in the Transactions of the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall, which had been founded in 1814.
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His Royal Highness opened the Museum on the 12th of May, 1851, in the presence of a brilliant gathering. After receiving an address from Sir Henry De la Beche, he spoke as follows:—
 
His Royal Highness opened the Museum on the 12th of May, 1851, in the presence of a brilliant gathering. After receiving an address from Sir Henry De la Beche, he spoke as follows:—
  
::In thanking you for the address which you have just read to me, I would express the sincere gratification with which I witness the opening, in a form more likely to make it generally and practically useful, of an institution, the progress of which I have long, watched with great interest, and the want of which had long been felt in this country.
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:In thanking you for the address which you have just read to me, I would express the sincere gratification with which I witness the opening, in a form more likely to make it generally and practically useful, of an institution, the progress of which I have long, watched with great interest, and the want of which had long been felt in this country.
  
::I rejoice in the proof thus afforded of the general and still increasing interest taken in scientific pursuits, while science herself, by the subdivision into various and distinct fields of her study, aims daily more and more at the attainment of useful and practical results.
+
:I rejoice in the proof thus afforded of the general and still increasing interest taken in scientific pursuits, while science herself, by the subdivision into various and distinct fields of her study, aims daily more and more at the attainment of useful and practical results.
  
::In this view it is impossible to estimate too highly the advantages to be derived from an institution like this, intended to direct the researches of scence, and, to apply their results to the development of the immense mineral riches granted by the bounty of Providence to our isles and their numerous colonial dependencies.
+
:In this view it is impossible to estimate too highly the advantages to be derived from an institution like this, intended to direct the researches of scence, and, to apply their results to the development of the immense mineral riches granted by the bounty of Providence to our isles and their numerous colonial dependencies.
  
::It will always give me the greatest pleasure to hear of, and, as far as I am able, to contribute to the continued success of the Museum of Practical Geology.
+
:It will always give me the greatest pleasure to hear of, and, as far as I am able, to contribute to the continued success of the Museum of Practical Geology.
  
 
At the time of the opening of the School of Mines and Science in Jermyn Street the following were professors or lecturers under the presidency of De la Beche: Chemistry, Playfair ; Geology, Ramsay ; Mechanical Science, Hunt; Metallurgy, John Percy ; Mining and Mineralogy, Waring-ton Smyth ; Natural History, Forbes. Four out of the six were already Fellows of the Royal Society.
 
At the time of the opening of the School of Mines and Science in Jermyn Street the following were professors or lecturers under the presidency of De la Beche: Chemistry, Playfair ; Geology, Ramsay ; Mechanical Science, Hunt; Metallurgy, John Percy ; Mining and Mineralogy, Waring-ton Smyth ; Natural History, Forbes. Four out of the six were already Fellows of the Royal Society.

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