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Geikie, Archibald, Sir, 28 December 1835 – 10 November 1924 (Professor of Geology, University of Edinburgh)


Biographical History

Sir Archibald Geikie was born at Edinburgh in 1835, the son of John Stuart Geikie, businessman, and composer, and Isabella Thom. He married Alice Gabrielle Pignatel in 1871. His education was at Black's school, then Edinburgh High School and he showed a great aptitude for study and his interest in science was furthered in the direction of geology when he and his friends discovered fossils at Burdiehouse quarries. Geikie was influenced by scientists such as naturalist John Fleming, to whom he was introduced by his father, and by the many books on geolgy which he consumed, most notably Hugh Miller's Old Red Sandstone.

Geikie's professional life began initially in banking, which he did not enjoy and 1851 saw his a newspaper publication of his Three Weeks in Arran by a Young Geologist, which led to an introduction to Hugh Miller. He also became acquainted with publisher Alexander Macmillan, geologist James David Forbes and Andrew Crombie Ramsay. The banking career abandoned, he matriculated at the University of Edinburgh in 1854 but had to leave the following year for financial reasons. A recommendation by both Miller and Ramsay to Sir Roderick Impey Murchison, newly appointed head of the Geological Survey, secured Geikie a position there as mapping assistant. The following years saw him make the acquaintance of distinguished scientists such as Leonard Horner and Sir Charles Lyell.

His official work was supplemented by research during his holiday time, travelling throughout the British Isles and Europe. 1867 saw him appointed director of the newly created branch, the Scottish Geological Survey. When Murchison founded the chair of geology in 1870 at the University of Edinburgh, Geikie was his choice as professor and he was appointed the following year.

Geikie's field and research work took him all over the British Isles and to many parts of Europe. He successfully combined his duties to both posts as well as devoting time to private research and writing. As well as his scientific writings, Geikie wrote several well-known biographical and historical books including Memoirs of Sir Roderick Impey Murchison (1875), Andrew Crombie Ramsay (1895), Edward Forbes (1861), and Founders of Geology (1897). 1924 saw the publication of his own autobiography.

He went on to succeed Sir Andrew Crombie Ramsay as head of the Geological Survey of Great Britain in 1881, which he held until his retiral in 1901. This saw him relocate to London and take a more active role in many scientific societies. Those relating to the Royal Society, he took particular interest in after his retiral, serving as secretary and president.

Noteable Publications

Scenery of Scotland
Account of the Progress of the Geological Survey in Scotland
Physical Geography
Colliers of Carrick
Life of Sir Roderick I Murchison, Bart.
Outlines of Field Geology
Elementary Lessons in Field Geology
Text-book of Geology
Geological Sketches at Home and Abroad
Classbook of Geology; Illustrated with Woodcuts
Memoir of Sir Andrew Crombie Ramsay
Founders of Geology
Ancient Volcanoes of Great Britain
History of the Geography of Scotland; with Maps and Illustrations
French Impression of Scotland and the Scots in the Year 1784
Charles Darwin as Geologist
Birds of Shakespeare
Annals of the Royal Society Club: the Record of a London Dining-Club in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

Honours, Qualifications and Appointments

Elected Fellow, Royal Society of Edinburgh
Elected Fellow, Royal Society of London
Appointed Director, Scottish Geological Survey
Appointed First Professor of Geology, the University of Edinburgh
Appointed Head, Geological Survey
Awarded Murchison Medal
Appointed President, Geological Society
Awarded Woolaston Meda
Awarded Royal Medal, Royal Society of London
Appointed Knight Commander, Order of the Bath
Appointed President, the Classical Association


Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Volume II , ( New York, Scribner's, 1981)

Found in 335 Collections and/or Records:

5 Lectures on geology, c1879

Identifier: Coll-74/6/18
Scope and Contents

Notes and text for five lectures on geology. Sir Archibald Geikie placed civilisation, religion and mythology in the context of geological development, looking at geolgical formations and the processes and materials involved in their creation.

Dates: c1879

Account of the 'Liasic district of Skye', 1853

Identifier: Coll-74/2/2
Scope and Contents

An account of geolocical and natural history aspects of the Isle of Skye made by Sir Archibald Geikie, who visited there in 1853. References are made to the scenery, shale, limestone, coral and glacial formations amongst others.

Dates: 1853

Answers to queries, late 19th century

Identifier: Coll-74/5/5
Scope and Contents

Answers to queries made by Sir Archibald Geikie on the form of clouds, dust wirlwinds, heights of British lakes, Petermann's drawings of vertical distribution of plants and the sea bed between Britain and Norway.

Dates: late 19th century

Applications in regard to Levelling Old Strand Lines in Scotland, 1900-1901

Identifier: Coll-74/3/10
Scope and Contents

5 letters to Sir Archilbald Geikie, 1 each from Martin Alister Campbell Hinton (1883-1961) and Russell F Gwinnell, following Geikie's lecture to the Geologists' Association on 'Our Older Sea Margins', and 3 from John W Lime offering his services for further survey work around the coast of Scotland.

Dates: 1900-1901

Archibald Geikie, correpondence

Identifier: Coll-1815/2
Scope and Contents Letters to Sir Archibald Geike from: Hicks, Henry (25 Oct. 1887); Hooker, Joseph Dalton (Sir) (May 1890); Horne, John (5 Jun. 1898); Huxley, Thomas Henry (17 May 1862); Kidston, Robert (3 Aug. 1883); Lapworth, Charles (Sir) (16 Nov. 1898); Lyell, Charles (Sir) (31 Mar. 1860); Marcou, Jules (5 Jan. 1871); Marcon, Jules (30 Apr. 1878); Milne, John (15 Aug. 1895); Peach, Benjamin Neve (19 Oct. 1898); Prestwich, Joseph (Sir) (15 May 1892?); Scrope, G. Poulett (1866?); Sorby, Henry...
Dates: Majority of material found within 1840s-1940s

Bibliographic notes, 1890s-1900s

Identifier: Coll-74/3/13
Scope and Contents

Rough bibliographical notes relating to Raised Beaches.

Dates: 1890s-1900s

Booklet: 'Geographical Evolution', 1879

Identifier: Coll-74/6/3
Scope and Contents

Printed booklet by Sir Archibald Geikie, entitled 'Geographical Evolution' and containing the text of a lecture given to the Royal Geographical Society on 24 March 1879 and taken from 'Proceedings of the Royal Society and Monthly Record of Geography', July 1879.

Dates: 1879

Boston lectures, c1879

Identifier: Coll-74/6
Scope and Contents

The Boston lectures and other items series consists of:

  1. Text of lectures
  2. Notes for lectures
  3. Maps
Dates: c1879

Copy of letter to Alexander MacMillan from George Wilson and copy of letter to a cousin of George Wilson's from George Wilson, 16 September 1858, 03 December 1854

Identifier: Coll-74/11/3/54
Scope and Contents

Copy of letter to Alexander MacMillan from George Wilson outlining the chapter headings for his 'Memoir of Edward Forbes' and copy of letter to a cousin of George Wilson's from George Wilson concerning the fate of Edward Forbes' soul.

Dates: 16 September 1858; 03 December 1854

Copy of letter to [Jessie Aitken Wilson] from Emily M Yelverton, 27 January 1860

Identifier: Coll-74/11/3/60
Scope and Contents

Copy of letter to [Jessie Aitken Wilson] from Emily M Yelverton telling her that she does not sanction the completion of the 'Memoir of Edward Forbes' by Sir Archibald Geikie and asking for the return of all personal items which she had lent to the late George Wilson for the project.

Dates: 27 January 1860