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Edinburgh University Library Department of Special Collections

Records of the Wernerian Natural History Society

Collection Summary

Reference Code

GB 0237 Wernerian Natural History Society



Extent and medium of the unit of description

0.3 metres

(2 volumes)

Existence and Location of Originals

This material is original.

Name of creator

Wernerian Natural History Society | 1808-1858 | scientific society | Edinburgh (Scotland)

Biographical History

Administrative History

The Wernerian Natural History Society was formed in January 1808 by nine scientists and laymen, presided over by Robert Jameson (1774-1854), and in honour of the illustrious Abraham Gottlob Werner (1750-1817) of Freiberg. Werner was a German geologist and mineralogist who helped to establish geology and mineralogy as two distinct sciences and became the first scientist to classify minerals systematically. His historical importance is now held to derive from his highly influential suggestion that the chronological order of deposition of the different rocks ought to be established. Writing at a time when chemists believed crystalline substances could only be deposited from solution, he assumed that all rocks were either sediments originally deposited at the bottom of the sea or were crystallized deposits precipitated from sea water. This school of geological thought emphasizing water as the chief agent in rock formation came to be known as Neptunism, as opposed to the Vulcanist school of which James Hutton (1726-1797) was a leading proponent. Neptunism was discredited when it was shown that crystalline rocks could be, and mostly were, formed when rocks hardened out of a molten state.

The Wernerian Natural History Society was formed ostensibly for the purpose of promoting the study of the Sciences and of Natural History in particular. It attracted many members and remained in existence for almost 50 years, with Jameson remaining its president until his death in 1854. Between 1811 and 1839 eight volumes of memoirs were published, to which Jameson contributed more than a dozen papers on geological and mineralogical topics, as well as a few on zoology and botany. After 1839 proceedings were published in the Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal which Jameson edited.

Scope and Content

Scope and Content

The records of the Wernerian Natural History Society consist of:

  • 2 volumes of Minute Books (January 1808-April 1858)





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Components of this collection