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William Buckland, 1784-1856: scientific institutions, vertebrate palaeontology and quaternary geology

By Patrick J. Boylan

Abstract

The thesis establishes a biographical framework for this and future studies of William Buckland, the first professor of geology in the University of Oxford, and eventually Dean of Westminster. This shows the way in which he progressed from a modest provincial background by way of the patronage system of Georgian England, to become an important figure in both the scientific and public life of\ud Regency and early Victorian Britain, and also examines the very wide range of Buckland's scientific activity in many areas and his active involvement in many scientific organisations.\ud His work with three scientific institutions is examined in detail: the\ud University of Oxford, the Geological Society of London and the British Association for the Advancement of Science. In Oxford, the success of his work led to the establishment of a regius chair in geology specially for him, and through this he both established geology as an important scientific discipline within the University and developed teaching techniques that are still the norm in the teaching of geology today. Buckland 's most important contributions to the Geological Society of London were his two periods as President, during the first of which he steered the Society to Chartered status, and in the second of which he held the Society together through the very divisive Devonian and glacial controversies. Within the British Association, Buckland 's presidency for the first full meeting held at Oxford in 1832 was particularly influential in terms of establishing both the objectives and the structure of Annual Meetings. \ud Buckland's work on vertebrate palaeontology is next considered, and a full review of the fauna of his classic fossil hyaena den locality of Kirkdale Cave which established Buckland's international reputation, is included as a "case study". In human palaeontology, Buckland began by expecting that human fossils would be found, but drew back in the absence of secure evidence. His extensive work with Mesozoic vertebrates included the recognition of both land dinosaurs and the first Mesozoic mammals, as well as fossil coprolites. Especially important was his emphasis on the environmental evidence that can be deducted from fossils, and as a consequence he was an important pioneer in both palaeoecology and taphonomy.\ud Finally, Bucklarid 's work in the field of Quaternary geology is reviewed in detail. His early "diluvialism" is shown to be well-founded in terms of the abundant anomalous field evidence in the areas of England and Scotland studied by Buckland, and he finally found a valid actualistic solution to these anomalies in the glacial theory.\ud Buckland had a central role in the advocacy of the glacial theory in Britain, and his extensive fieldwork of the Autumn of 1840 is described and re-evaluated as a second "case study"

Publisher: University of Leicester
Year: 1984
OAI identifier: oai:lra.le.ac.uk:2381/7525

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