•  Haslemere Educational Museum
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    Sir Archibald Geikie's Timeline

    The Early Years (1835 to 1854)

    1855 to 1870


    Sir Archibald Geikie was born in Edinburgh, Scotland; son of James Stewart Geikie, a musician and Music Critic to the Scotsman Newspaper. His father had a chemist and perfumery business, but later relinquished this to follow his interest in music. He gave lessons, trained choirs, conducted orchestras and composed hymns. His mother, Isabella Thorn was the daughter of a captain in the merchant marine.


    Attended Black’s Preparatory School, Edinburgh for three years. Geikie recollects the autumn visit of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to the city of Edinburgh. He was taught mainly English with minor science. A dominant recollection for Geikie that year was the opening of the first railway in Scotland, between Edinburgh and Glasgow in the spring of that year.


    On May 18th that year the school pupils witnessed the Disruption of the Kirk of Scotland, but the young Archibald was too young to understand this event.


    Educated at Royal High School, Edinburgh and began his education in the classics, focusing on Latin and Greek. 1st time in the “open wilds” at a farm on the moors between Croy & Kilsyth, Central Scotland. Attempted a sketch valley scene of the Forth & Clyde Canal during this period. In August his imagination was greatly stimulated by the introduction to the Scottish Highlands, during the holidays.


    A new Rector was appointed to the High School on the 3rd of January, a Dr. Leonard Schmitz. The whole school was summoned to the Great Hall and Geikie heard his speech. At about this time Archibald Geikie became seriously interested in Latin. He eventually became so good at translation that he translated the “Four Ages of Ovid”. This piece of work was past on to Dr. William Steven who was at the time writing his “History of the High School of Edinburgh”. The book would be published in 1849, making it Geikie's first work in print.

    Geikie saw the inauguration of the memorial to Sir Walter Scott, the now very famous monument on Princes Street. In July that year the annual prize giving took place in the Great Hall of his school, where he received his prize a book called “Lays of Ancient Rome”.


    Geikie's initial visit to London occurred in autumn that year, and part of the journey was by boat, this was Geikie's first sea-voyage. A prominent memory was the visit to the House of Lords.


    Geikie began his career in a lawyer’s office in Castle Street, Edinburgh. It was suggested that he should work there for two years in the office of a Writer to the Sugnet, as part of his preliminary legal training before entering a banking career. The firm was William Frazer. Geikie found the work tedious, but did aquire some business knowledge.


    A choice was offered to Archibald, either another visit to London (and the Great Exhibition) or a few weeks to the Island of Arran. The preference was obvious to him and selected the later instead. On the 3rd of September he sailed from Broomielaw of Glasgow in one of the steamboats, on a five-hour journey to Arran. The islands geology and natural history was greatly enjoyed and educational to Geikie. Wrote two articles under the title “three weeks in Arran by a young geologist” appeared in one Edinburgh Newspaper in December.


    Geikie abandoned his parents’ idea of a career in banking. Entered Edinburgh University to study Classics & Literature. Dr George Wilson (a chemist, author and biographer) introduced Geikie to Professor A.C. Ramsay, local Director of the Geological Survey and Alexander Macmillan, the publisher. He also took private lessons in mineralogy from Alexander Rose. One of his earliest unpublished manuscripts is “Rambles in the Lias deposits of Skye”, September 1853.


    He Matriculated in Humanities in November 1st that year.

    1835 to 1854

    Geikie´s Geological Career (1855 to 1870)

    1871 to 1883


    A family financial crisis forced him to end his studies later. Two letters were shown to Geikie’s father. One from Sir Roderick Murchison to Hugh Miller enquired if Miller knew of a suitably qualified young man to be appointed to a field post in the Geological Survey. Another was Miller’s reply. It contained a good recommendation for Geikie and a reference to his earier geological work in Skye. An interview was quickly arranged in Edinburgh with Ramsay and later with Sir Roderick Murchison at the British Association meeting in the same city. Geikie was accepted without Civil Service formalities aged 20.

    Geikie started his geological career on 19th October 1855 as a geological field assistant and began work in the Haddington district east of Edinburgh with a Mr H.H. Howell, a coalfield geologist.


    He was engaged in surveying the western parts of Midlothian, northern sections of West Lothian. In addition, Geikie managed to complete geological mapping of the Strath district of Skye and devoted attention to the island of Raasay, including the collection of numerous Jurassic fossils.


    Continued geological fieldwork in the Edinburgh district. Geikie published “The story of a Boulder”, it was his first published book. Also visited London and met many colleagues at the Geological Survey.“The Geology of Strath”, Skye was published in the Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society, London.


    The Edinburgh geological sheet of the Geological Survey of Scotland was completed. He attended the British Association’s Meeting in Aberdeen.


    Geikie accompanied Murchison on their famous tour of northwest and central Highlands of Scotland to determine the geological succession of the rocks in those regions. Also gave course lectures to students at the School of Mines.


    He visited the volcanic districts of the Auvergne, France to study volcanic features. Published with Murchison “The altered rocks of the Western Islands of Scotland and the northwestern and Central Highlands” paper. Also published eight other geological papers, some jointly with other authors. Geikie declined an offer of the post of Geologist to the Maharajah of Cashmere.


    Geikie studied the “drift” deposits of Southern Scotland and developed independently the idea of terrestrial ice-sheets, as suggested by Agassiz.


    Examination of “drift” deposits continued along the northeast coast of England. The important paper “On the phenomena of the Glacial Drift of Scotland” was published by John Gray in Glasgow. In October, Geikie was assigned to the Carrick district of Ayrshire, Scotland.


    Geikie’s friends Professor Pillans and Leonard Horner both died this year.


    He became a Fellow of the Royal Society. Geikie visited Norway to study aspects of glaciation with James Geikie, his brother and examined areas beyond the Arctic Circle. Geikie published his first major text “The scenery of Scotland viewed in connection with its physical geology”. It was a fine work and ran through three editions.


    J.B. Jukes, a geologist invited Geikie to visit Antrim, Northern Ireland to study the remarkable volcanic sequences e.g. the Giant’s Causeway, displayed there. Visited London on several occasions on Survey duties and attended various social functions.


    He became Director of the Geological Survey of Scotland 1st April. Geikie re-organised parts of the Geological Survey and was present at the British Association’s Meeting in Dundee. Here, he choose the subject for the Presidential Address: “The History of Volcanic Action in the British Islands”.


    Geikie accompanied other geologists during an excursion with the Geological Survey to the Eifel volcanic district in Germany and the Swiss Alps.


    Went to Austria during the summer and studied various aspects of field geology in the Alps.


    Geikie acquired Ramsay Lodge, Edinburgh for his own home. George Poulet Scrope requested him to visit the Lipari Islands & Southern Italy. Geikie became seriously ill with malarial fever in April / May and came back to Britain to convalesce.

    He met Anna Alice Gabrielle Pignatel from Lyon, France, near the home of his publisher Alexander Macmillan. She was a trained musician and quite beautiful with a charming voice, but increasingly became more attractive to Geikie by her gentleness and gaiety.

    1855 to 1870

    Marriage and Family (1871 to 1883)

    1884 to 1900


    He married Anna Alice Gabrielle Pignatel 17th August and lived in a house on Castle Hill, Edinburgh. Their wedding tour included Germany, France and Switzerland. Her mother was English and her father, who had died recently, belonged to a branch of the Pignatel family of southern Italy, which had migrated to France several generations before. Her family home was the Chateau de St. Didier near Lyons, France.

    He was offered the first holder of the Murchison Chair of Geology and Mineralogy at Edinburgh University. Geikie’s long term friend and professional colleague Sir Roderick Murchison died on 22nd October.


    Their first child, Lucy Isabella, was born on 22nd July.

    Geikie introduced a course of lectures on geology at Edinburgh University, including field excursions. Courses were also arranged for woman’s education and Geikie’s wife Anna Alice accompanied them. He gave several lectures in Edinburgh, Leeds and Manchester.


    Geikie published two of his popular Science Primers.


    The family moved to a newly built house on Colinton Road near Edinburgh. Their son Roderick was born on 11th April.


    In spring, the major work, “Life of Sir Roderick I. Murchison” made its public appearance in two octave volumes. The geologist Sir Charles Lyell died. Geikie wrote Charles Lyell's obituary in the journal “Nature”.


    Their third child Elsie was born on 14th July.

    Geikie accompanied his friend from his days as a student at Edinburgh, the celebrated mineralogist Mathew Heddle to the Loch Eriboll and Durness districts of the North west Highlands. He spent part of the winter writing a memoir on the Old Red Sandstone.


    Geikie visited the USA and toured around Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and Yellowstone Park studying various geological features and landscapes. A lecture was given at the Lowell Institute, Boston. He prepared a memoir describing the volcanic history of the Firth of Forth area which was published in the following year.


    Gabrielle Jeanne was born on 20th September (called Margaret at birth, but her name was changed before her christening).


    Geikie received the Murchison Medal. A descriptive paper on the “Geysers of the Yellowstone” was printed in Macmillan's Magazine. Tow other papers were published, on the ancient glaciers of the Rocky Mountains and an obituary to the French Geologist Ami Boue.

    At the near end of the year Geikie received a letter from the Privy Council Office offering the post of Director-General of the Geological Survey and the Directorship of the Museum of Practical Geology in Jermyn Street, London.


    Became Director General of the Geological Survey on the 1st of January and moved to 61 Ladbroke Grove, London. The “Text-book of Geology” appeared 17th October after five years research work. It was an excellent volume with good sales botha t home and in America. “Geological Sketches at home and abroad” also was published in the same year.


    He assigned the Survey geologists Peach and Horne to investigate the Northwest Highlands and report and publish their findings.

    1871 to 1883

    Marriage and Family (1884 to 1900)

    1901 to 1912


    Geikie gave a series of five lectures on “The origin of the scenery of the British Isles”. The family spent summer in Newquay, Cornwall.


    Attended the 3rd International Geological Congress in Berlin. A short paper by Archibald Geikie on “The Geological Survey of Belgium” was published in the journal Nature. Also a paper on the origin of coral reefs appeared this year.


    Geikie was invited to Oxford and gave an address on the influence which the geological features of Britain have had on the races that have settled in these Islands. The Geikie family moved to Harrow for their son’s schooling. The paper “The life and letters of Charles Darwin” appeared in “Contemorary Review”.

    Another educational book was published in the same year entitled “The Teaching of geography, suggestions regarding principles and methods for the use of Teachers”. and was part of Macmillan's Geographical Series.


    He gave the results of a study relating to the British Tertiary volcanic history to the Royal Society of Edinburgh. This work would be formally published later. The family wintered on the Italian Rivera and then Florence. Geikie attended the 4th International Geological Congress in London. He met Charles Doolittle Walcott during an evening reception at the Congress hosted by Geikie on Wednesday the 19th September.


    Inspection duties in the field covered many areas including England, Ireland and Scotland. He travelled to Florence and Rome, Italy. Geikie also visited Norway briefly in July for additional geological research. He was elected Foreign Secretary of the Royal Society and was awarded for the second time the Makdougall-Brisbane medal. Geikie received a number of diplomas of honorary memberships of foreign academies.

    He brought together a collection of geological specimens to illustrate the fundamental principals of geology in the Butler Museum, at Harrow School. A special 86-page handbook with woodcuts was produced to accompany the collection, and was printed in June.


    At the beginning of this year the Geological Society informed Geikie that the Presidency of that Society would be offered to him. The major paper, The history of volcanic action during the Teriary period in the British Isles made its appearence in “Transaction of the Royal Society Edinburgh”. Geikie became President of the Geological Society on the 21st of February.

    He visited Western Ireland. He had several interviews with Sir William Thompson, later Lord Kelvin about the future Presidency of the Royal Society.


    Knighthood awarded to Geikie by Queen Victoria on 30th July at Osborne, Isle of Wight. He travelled to Paris for the Centenary of the Institute de France. The revision of the geology of the South Wales Coalfield began.

    A paper dealing with volcanoes appeared this year, “History of volcanic action in the British Isles” was published in the “Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London”.


    The Anniversary of the Geological Society took place in February at Burlington House, London. A new mineral species geikielite is named after Sir Archibald Geikie. The family moved to Chester Terrace, Regent’s Park in October. Geikie’s wife and their daughters spent the winter in Paris, while he would stay at the Athenaeum Club in London.


    On January 5th, the science journal Nature published an essay by the French geologist Albert Auguste de Lapparent, as a contribution to its series “Scientific Worthies”. The subject was the scientific work of Archibald Geikie, it was an eulogistic account of his labours.

    On the 29th June Geikie joined the Board of Governors of Harrow School. His son Roderick became Head of School this year. Geikie chaired the meeting of the British Association at Nottingham 15th September. The subject was contributions to discussion on “The limits between geology and physical geography”. He published five papers this year on various aspects of geology.


    Geikie attended the 6th International Geological Congress in Zurich, Switzerland. Time allowed for fieldwork inspections in the southern and midland counties of England and the Southern Uplands of Scotland.


    Survey duties took Geikie to western Scotland and Geikie seized the opportunity to climbed Ben Nevis and spent the night of 14th June at the Observatory. During a yachting cruise of the Island of Jura, he examined the raised beaches there. He also visited the St. Kilda archipelago. Geikie was awarded the Geological Society’s Wollaston Medal – the society’s highest award.


    His cherished friend Joseph Prestwich died on 23rd June. Due to increased work at the Survey headquarters, Geikie spent most of his time in London with only occasional visits to Scotland.


    He made a second visit to the USA and gave a course of six lectures to inaugurate the Williams Lecturship at John Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland. This was the basis of his later book “The Founders of Geology” published in the summer. This book reveals his extensive knowedge of classical and modern literature.

    He toured in southern Russia, Turkey, Greece and Italy. Attended the 7th International Geological Congress. Geikie’s monumental two-volume magnum opus “The ancient volcanoes of Great Britain” was published.


    The immortal book “Theory of the Earth” by the Scottish Geologist James Hutton was published in 1795 in two volumes, but a third volume was never published. Geikie eventually found the missing manuscript and appealed to the Geological Society for it to be published. The proposal was accepted and Geikie edited the work. It was issued in February. Geikie was in attendance at the 8th International Geological Congress.


    Geikie published the obituary of the Duke of Argyll in the science journal “Nature”. The geological memoir of the Geological Survey “The geology of central and western Fife and Kinross” was published in the same year. Two other papers appeared that year.

    The Wharton Inquiry (named after the Member of Parliament the Right Honourable J.L. Wharton) was set up in this year to investigate the Geological Survey's activities. It met on 13 separate occasions, and submitted their report on 20th September that year.The paper “Notes on some specimens of rocks from the Antarctic regions” was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

    1884 to 1900

    Geikie´s Retirement and Awards (1901 to 1912)

    1913 to 1924


    Archibald Geikie retired at the end of February, after 45 years of public service. He wrote a letter Our mountain seclusion protesting against the proposed construction of the Portmadoc, Beddgelert and South Snowdon railway in the journal Nature. Geikie published a French paper about the international cooperation and investigations between geologists. Geikie attended a complimentary dinner on 1st May with Lord Avebury. An account of which appeared in the journal Nature on the 9th of the same month.He also attended the 200th Anniversary of the birth of Linnaeus in May in Upsala and Stockholm, Sweden.


    Geikie published his major illustrated article on Geology in the 10th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica in England and Scotland. He worked on new editions of his various educational books. On 22nd August Archibald Geikie was asked to attend the centenary of the birth of his friend Hugh Millar at Cromarty, his native town in Scotland. Geikie gave an address that was printed as a pamphlet for those interested. This was followed by luncheon and a visit to the house where Miller was born. The Geikie family spent the winter of 1902/3 in Rome. He worked in the mornings on the preparations for the indexes for Text-book of Geology, and devoted the afternoons to sightseeing with his family.He was offered the Presidency of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. The geological Survey memoir of Eastern Fife was published.


    Geikie attended the 9th International Geological Congress in Vienna, Austria. The memoir covering the districts of Northern Arran, South Bute, the Cumraes with parts of Ayrshire and Kintyre was published. Geikie was offered the Secretaryship of the Royal Society in November and filled that post with enthusiasm until 1908. Geikie continued to edit the third edition of Text-book of Geology, which was completed and printed that summer. In that year he was elected President of the Royal Society and occupied the chair until 1913.


    The book Scottish Reminiscences appeared and was a popular work. He also published five other papers including some in French. 11th May Geikie attended a private dinner by the Prince of Wales at the Athenaeum Club.


    The second and expanded edition of The Founders of Geology was published. It is a very readable work and is an important review of the early development of the science of geology. The volume “Landscape in history and other assays” by Geikie was published.


    Geikie became President of the Geological Society. A range of different geological papers was published throughout the year including a variety of subjects ranging from geography to biographical materials. He gave an address to a meeting of the Alliance Francaise at the Sorbonne, Paris on the 26th February. Lamarck and Playfair: a geological retrospect of the year 1802 was the subject of the address. It was subsequently published in the Geological Magazine. A French version also appeared in France. A paper “The origin of landscape” was written for the Edinburgh Review, and was printed in October.


    Knight Commander of the Bath was awarded to Geikie. In May of this year Geikie was one of the chosen delegates to a meeting to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Linnaeus in Upsala and Stockholm, Sweden. A variety of biographical papers made their appearance. During the Centenary of the Geological of London, Geikie was chosen to preside over the ceremonies.


    Second term of the Presidency of the Royal Society was offered to Geikie and he accepted. Geikie gave the President's anniversary address: The published work of the Geological Society of London during the first century of the Societies existence. This he gave on the 21st February that year. He also gave the Presidential address on 10th June entitled The Weald that appeared in the Transactions of the South-Eastern Union of Scientific Societies. It was summarised later in the journal Nature.


    Geikie gave the Rede Lecture: “Charles Darwin as geologist” at the Darwin Centennial Commemoration on 24th June. It was published as a slim red volume in the same year, 1909 by Cambridge University Press. Four additional papers were published that year.


    Geikie delivered a Presidential Address to the Royal Society concerning the work of that society on 30th November. His son Roderick Geikie died in a London underground accident on the 6th December. He was buried in Brookwood Cemetery, Brookwood, Woking. His major article on Geology in the Encyclopaedia Britannica is printed as the 11th edition of the encyclopaedia in New York. His article on The building of the island was printed in J.A. Balfour's book The book of Arran and published by The Arran Society of Glasgow. Geikie became the President of the Classics Association this year. He gave his address in Liverpool in January 1911. Two further papers appeared that year.


    Archibald Geikie presents the Copley Medal to Sir George Darwin.


    The volume The love of nature among the Romans during the later decades of the republic and the first century of the empire by Sir Archibald Geikie is published by John Murray. It was partly based upon the address he gave at the Classics Association in January 1911. This work was reviewed in the journal Nature. A chapter entitled Charles Lyell and Forfarshire geology appears in: Handbook and guide to Dundee and district, Dundee, as part of the British Association.

    1901 to 1912

    Geikie´s Retirement and Awards (1913 to 1924)


    Geikie retired from London and moved to Haslemere, Surrey. He had a house, “Shepherd’s Down”, built on some land previously acquired, south of Haslemere. His wife and daughters designed their house. The Order of Merit was awarded to him. The death of Sir Jonathan Hutchinson (23rd June) was reported locally – founder of Haslemere Museum. Geikie again presented the Copley medal to an old friend Sir Edwin Ray Lankester - an eminent zoologist. He revisited Rome and Naples in the spring and his second daughter; Elsie was also travelling through Italy with school friends.


    Geikie returned to Italy in the spring to study the locations of the various Latin poets, starting with visits to the Sabine Hills. He met with numerous academic friends and attended a meeting of the “Accademia dei Lincei”. The outbreak of the Great War in August prevented further Italian expeditions. A public meeting on the future of Haslemere Museum took place and Geikie was appointed Chairman of the Museum Committee in February and continued in this post until his death in 1924. He also was elected President of Haslemere Natural History Society.


    His daughter Elsie had been ill for several months in failing health, but she suddenly passed away on the 23rd February this year. The whole family was deeply distressed and Geikie's wife, Alice was still further broken down in sprit by the loss of Elsie. Geikie's brother James also died in Edinburgh on 1st March after a short illness. James had held the Chair of Geology at Edinburgh University with great success for 32 years, only retiring only in the previous year.


    Geikie’s wife Alice died on the 21st January after a period of invalidity and her ashes were buried in the Freshfields area of Brookwood Cemetery, Brookwood, Woking, along side her son Roderick. Early in 1916 Geikie's youngest daughter, Gabrielle married Harold J. Behrens, an officer of the Territorial Battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment. When he went to the front, she returned to their Haslemere home. Geikie was asked to write a “History of the Royal Society Club”. The Presidential address to the Haslemere Natural History Society was entitled “The Birds of Shakespeare”. This work was subsequently published later that year.


    The Annals of the Royal Society Club: the record of a London dinning-club in the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries” was published in summer as an octave volume of 500 pages and 30 portraits of men described in the work. Towards the end of this year Geikie's friends in France conferred on him their highest distinction - the “Associe Etrander de I' Institute de France”. He received many telegrams and letters of congratulations from numerous French friends. Gabrielle had a son, Derick born in February that year. Derick was to spend much time with Sir Archibald Geikie in Haslmere.


    The Memoir of John Michell by Geikie, was published by Cambridge University Press in June this year.


    On the 1st of December Archibald Geikie received a letter from Mr Ian Macpherson, Head of the Irish Office, informing him that the Government proposes to appoint a Royal Commission of Enquiry into Dublin University. He would ask Geikie to act as Chairman of the commission. Geikie agreed to act as its Chairman. The Council of the University of Strasbourg bestowed the degree of Honorary Doctor of the University to him. Geikie was unable to attend but the diploma was sent to him.


    Geikie published a memorial tribute to Sir Norman Lockyer – the joint founder of the international science journal “Nature”. The above Commission met in April in Trinity College, Dublin. A further 12 meetings were made at the Irish Office, London. They signed their Report on 12th November that year.


    Geikie's address entitled The Weald previously published in 1908 was reprinted in the Haslemere Natural History Society's Science Paper, No. 8.


    Sir Archibald died on the 10th November aged 88. He was buried at St. Bartholomew’s Churchyard in Haslemere. “A long life’s work: an autobiography” by Sir Archibald Geikie was published that year.