Geology Wars – The debate of the North Highlands

Within the MacGregor of MacGregor collection are two papers of national significance by pioneering Geologist Sir Roderick Impey Murchison: ‘A Geological Sketch-Map of the North of Scotland, with Letter-Press Explanation’ and ‘Address to the Geographical and Ethnological Section of the British Association’.

Sir Roderick Impey Murchison was born in 1792 in Tarradale, Ross-shire. During his career he would establish himself as one of the Britain’s leading Geologists. His main pioneering discovery was the identification of the Silurian System. In 1830, whilst studying fossil-bearing rocks in Wales, Murchison had identified that their appearance was distinct from the rocks that formed the Cambrian and the rocks of the Devonian. Murchison would name this specific geological period the Silurian.

After being knighted in 1846, Murchison spent much of the later part of his life researching and investigating the geology of the North of Scotland. His research here caused much debate with rival Geologist James Nicol and Murchison disagreeing over their respective research on the area.

In 1860, Murchison published his controversial monograph ‘A Geological Sketch-Map of the North of Scotland, with Letter-Press Explanation’. Murchison claimed that his sketch-map of the geological structure of the North of Scotland was offered as ‘the simple outline of that which must be considered a new classification of the stratified rocks of that region’. He was also ‘convinced that this order is established on sound evidence’.

PD60-638-6: ‘A Geological Sketch-Map of the North of Scotland, with Letter-Press Explanation’

Ultimately Murchison’s theories on the formation and origins on the complex geological structure of the highlands Scotland were overturned by two Scottish Geologists: John Horne of Stirlingshire and Ben Peach of Cornwall. John Horne was born near Campsie in Stirlingshire in 1848. Along with Ben Peach, they would publish the ground breaking ‘Northwest Highlands Memoir’ in 1907. The memoir, still regarded as one of the most important geological journals, finally established the structural formation of the Scottish Highlands.

So why do these papers exist within the MacGregor of MacGregor collection? The answer is found on the front cover of one of Murchison’s published papers. Highlighted on the cover ‘Address to the Geographical and Ethnological Section of the British Association’ is a note from Sir Roderick to Miss MacGregor. It reads:

‘To Miss MacGregor

From the old friend of her Grandfather

& Father

Roderick Murchison’

PD60/638/5: Address signed by Murchison to Miss MacGregor
PD60/638/5: ‘Address to the Geographical and Ethnological Section of the British Association’

The achievements of Murchison are still recognised today with various awards, memorials and even a crater on the moon named after the Geologist.

Facebooktwitter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments Protected by WP-SpamShield Spam Filter