Skip to main content

Notebooks of Robert Jameson

Identifier: Coll-1373

Scope and Contents

Drafts and collect reading material connected to Jameson's literary output, manuscripts submitted for publication in his journal, and travel write-ups and observational notebooks.


  • Creation: c1790-c1850


Language of Materials


Biographical / Historical

The mineralogist Robert Jameson was born in Leith on 11 July 1774. His early education was received in Leith and then he became the apprentice of a surgeon in Leith, with the aim of going to sea. He also attended classes at Edinburgh University, studying medicine, botany, chemistry, and natural history. By 1793, and influenced by the Professor of Natural History, John Walker (1731-1803), he abandoned medicine and the idea of being a ship's surgeon, and focused instead on science, particularly geology and mineralogy.

Jameson was given the responsibility of looking after the University's museum. In 1793, he went to London, meeting naturalists and visiting museums to take notes. A visit to the Shetland Islands followed in 1794, to explore the geology, mineralogy, zoology and botany there. This led to the publication of The mineralogy of the Shetland Islands and of Arran, with an appendix containing observations on peat, kelp, and coal (1798). Earlier, in 1796, Jameson read two papers rejecting the vulcanist interpretation of the formation of Earth that had been put forward by Edinburgh geologist James Hutton (1726-1797). Hutton had propounded the theory that the features of the Earth's crust were caused by natural processes over geologic time; the principle of uniformitarianism. Instead, Jameson supported the ideas of Abraham Gottlob Werner (1750-1817) who had proclaimed the aqueous origin of rocks; that rocks were formed when immense quantities of minerals precipitated out of the waters of the biblical flood.Other visits to the Scottish islands in the north and west, and to Ireland, produced the two volume Mineralogy of the Scottish isles (1800) which was a fuller description of his views. In 1800, he spent a year at the mining academy in Freiburg, Saxony, to study under Werner. He returned to Edinburgh in 1802.

On the death of Walker in 1803, Jameson was appointed Regius Professor of Natural History and Keeper of the University Museum. Over his fifty year tenure, he built up a huge collection of mineralogical and geological specimens for the Museum, including fossils, birds and insects. Although he had been one of the great exponents of Werner's geological tenets and founded the Wernerian Natural History Society in 1808, Jameson afterwards admitted conversion to the views of Hutton. He died in Edinburgh on 19 April 1854. Shortly after his death, the University Museum was transferred to the Crown and became part of the Royal Scottish Museum (now Royal Museum) in Edinburgh's Chambers Street.


13 Volumes

Physical Location


Custodial History

Unknown but probably in the custody of the University of Edinburgh since at least the 1930s.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

To be determined.

Related Materials

See also the Pollok-Morris Collection (Coll-44) for Jameson's letters

Processing Information

Catalogued by Grant Buttars 18 May 2012

Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the University of Edinburgh Library Heritage Collections Repository

Centre for Research Collections
University of Edinburgh Main Library
George Square
Edinburgh EH8 9LJ Scotland
+44(0)131 650 8379