William Boyd Dawkins is an immensely fascinating character, who dominated British geology during his time, and yet is mostly forgotten today. He received a professorship and a knighthood, along with many top awards, and yet Mark Wright, in this excellent biography, describes him as “a liar and probably a cheat”.
This is certainly a somewhat different sort of book from those I usually review. As it makes clear, women have always played key roles in the field of vertebrate palaeontology, going back centuries. However, other than perhaps the most best known historical female vertebrate palaeontologists, comparatively little is known about these women scientists. As a result, their true contributions have probably been obscured. In this context, the book aims to reveal this hidden history, thereby celebrating the diversity and importance of women VPs.
Maybe it’s a result of my social anthropology and geological background, but I found this difficult but fascinating book a great read. It’s about nineteenth century India. It is not about the modern geological science or social anthropology of the subcontinent, but rather, the geological imagination of India, as well as its landscapes and people, and its history.
I sat down to read this over Christmas and what a good read it turned out to be. The appropriate word is ‘eclectic’ – because Measures for Measure is written for all us with an interest in the industrial history of Great Britain, and its impact on the landscape, economy, social history and culture.
The Geologists’ Association have extended their excellent series of geological guides by producing what some people (including me) would think at first was a slightly self-indulgent couple of volumes on ‘Devonshire Marbles’. However, for my part, I soon realised that this view is entirely wrong.
This book is truly sumptuous, and yet is also a comprehensive discussion of William Smith’s maps (including the revolutionary ‘A Delineation of the Strata of England and Wales, with part of Scotland’) and career. It is beautifully produced, printed on quality paper and the full colour illustrations are outstanding.
Mary Anning was clearly one of the most significant characters of eighteenth century science and possibly of all time, particularly in the realm of palaeontology. I am not sure that she is quite as unknown as the American author this excellent little biography claims, but she certainly should be better known.
Vesuvius is a European geological icon par excellence. There are many books about this wonderful volcano and most people will know its connection with the destruction of Pompeii. Therefore, this book is as much about its social history, as it is about its geology.
It appears that I was naive to assume the Tunguska explosion of 1908 had been adequately explained. It was a meteorite or, more probably, a comet that exploded above a remote area of Siberia, wasn’t it? Not necessarily! This fascinating book shows that we still await a completely adequate scientific explanation and the jury is still out on what precisely the object was.
Over a period of 20 years, Ian Tyler has written a series of books on the metalliferous mining industry of the English Lake District and this has clearly been a significant labour of love for him. Unfortunately, Roughton Gill and the Mines of the Caldbeck Fells is his last – the result of the sad loss of his wife and collaborator in this project. However, he has now created an extraordinary record of the geological economic activity in this part of the world.
Roderick Impey Murchison must have been a remarkable man. The son of a Scottish landowner, he was one of the first people to rigorously use the principles of stratigraphy discovered by William Smith, which put him in a position to erect the Silurian system and to name about 123myrs of geological time.
It might come as a surprise to the vast majority of the UK population (and probably anyone reading this elsewhere), but this country is a great place for dinosaurs. In fact, it is one of the most important places for Lower Cretaceous dinosaurs, whose remains have been found on the Isle of Wight and in the Weald. A possible Triassic dinosaur has also been found in Morayshire, Scotland, and there are plenty more from the entire length of the Jurassic.
I like the GA guides. They are excellent resources for amateurs and professional geologists alike. I frequently browse mine, planning geological trips I will probably never take, because I live in geological unexciting London. Therefore, imagine how pleased I was to receive a GA guide to the Great Metropolis to review.
The author, John L Morton, certainly came to popular geological publishing by an interesting and circuitous route. Trained as a pilot, became the district commissioner for scouts in Horsham and, on retirement, studied a BSc in, among other things, geology. In 2001, on the strength of this book on William Smith, he was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society.
This is a lovely book – a glorious mixture of a beautiful coffee-table book and an academic treatise of the highest quality. But why microfossils? What is it about them that can create such strong feelings?
This is a very ambitious work. The authors discuss the geology of Britain as a “geological legacy”, that is, they believe it is “an inheritance bequeathed to 11 millennia or so of its post-glacial inhabitants”. Therefore, the book covers the geological foundations of its landscape and its raw materials; and how both of these have been used by society and individuals in the visual arts and literature, as well as for mining, quarrying and architecture.
As the author, John McManus, writes: “The East Neuk of Fife was blessed with a mineral resource that was relatively easy to access”. This resource was coal – the driver of the industrial revolution and, even before then, a crucial element to the area’s industrial development from medieval times (or even Roman times) to the late twentieth century.
This is a new edition of the classic little guide on Blue John by Trevor Ford, who has now sadly passed away. It is published by the East Midlands Geology Society and has been revised, updated and expanded by Trevor’s colleagues, Tony Waltham and Noel Worley.
Nebraska has an excellent geological record, which is celebrated by some fine mosaics at the Nebraska State Capitol. When the building was being constructed, and at the request of Prof Hartley Burr Alexander of the Philosophy Department and from drawings by a colleague, the artist, Hildreth Meière, was asked to create a series of mosaics. These are now set out on the floor of the rotunda for all to see.