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Edinburgh University Library Special Collections Division

Papers of Sir Archibald Geikie

Collection Summary

Reference Code

GB 0237 Sir Archibald Geikie



Extent and medium of the unit of description

2 metres

(11 boxes, 1 volume)

Existence and Location of Originals

This material is original.

Name of creator

Geikie | Sir | Archibald | 1835-1924 | professor of geology, University of Edinburgh

Biographical History

Biographical History

Sir Archibald Geikie (1835-1924) was primarily interested in geomorphology and became the foremost advocate of the theory of land surface erosion through fluvial action, weathering agents and ice action during repeated ice ages. This replaced the predominant theory, that landmasses were subject to submarine sculpture before uplift. He also studied past volcanic action, and made the first attempt to group Scotland's sequence of eruptions chronologically. Studies of Scotland's Old Red Sandstone strata led to the first recognition of the widespread unconformity between the upper and lower group.

After leaving a banking career, Geikie undertook a year of study at the University of Edinburgh before financial restraints prevented him from continuing. In 1855, previous geological contact with Hugh Miller (1802-1856) and Sir Andrew Crombie Ramsay (1814-1891) secured him a mapping assistant post with the Geological Survey, then under the directorship of Sir Roderick Impey Murchison (1792-1871). During his employment, Geikie supplemented his official field duties with significant personal research, geological writings and preparation of papers for a variety of scientific societies. In 1867 he was appointed as the first Director in Scotland of the Geological Survey of Great Britain. In 1871 he became the first Murchison Professor of Geology and Mineralogy at the University of Edinburgh and combined the duties of both posts. In 1881 he was appointed the Geological Survey director-general for Great Britain. This required a move to London and Geikie reluctantly relinquished his professorship to his brother James Geikie (1839-1915).

Geikie published a large number of works during his career, in the form of books, textbooks, memoirs, biographies of geologists, essays and reviews. His works include The scenery of Scotland, (1865), Life of Sir Roderick I. Murchison, (1875) , Outlines of Field Geology, (1876) , Text-book of Geology, (1882) , The Founders of Geology, (1897) , The Ancient Volcanoes of Great Britain, (1897) and the co-authored Memoir of Edward Forbes, FRS, (1861) .

Geikie was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1861 and Fellow of the Royal Society, London, in 1865. He was President of the Geological Society of London, 1891-1892 and 1906-1908, and was awarded their Wollaston Medal in 1895. He was awarded the Royal Society's Royal Medal in 1896 and served as their president from 1908-1913. He was knighted in 1891, created Knight Commander of the Bath in 1907 and received the Order of Merit in 1913.

Scope and Content

Scope and Content

The papers Sir Archibald Geikie consist of:

  • personal, organisational and scientific correspondence
  • geological notebooks with field sketches and water-colours
  • reprints of his work
  • miscellaneous lecture notes
  • student's lecture notes
  • lecture notes and printed maps relating to a visit to Boston
  • proofs for Encyclopaedia Brittanica Geology entry
  • personal correspondence of Sir Roderick Impey Murchison
  • personal correspondence of Sir Andrew Crombie Ramsay
  • newspaper clippings




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