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William Buckland

William Buckland

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The Very Rev. Dr William Buckland DD
Doctor of Divinity
Doctor of Divinity is an advanced academic degree in divinity. Historically, it identified one who had been licensed by a university to teach Christian theology or related religious subjects....

 FRS
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

 (12 March 1784 – 14 August 1856) was an English
English people
The English are a nation and ethnic group native to England, who speak English. The English identity is of early mediaeval origin, when they were known in Old English as the Anglecynn. England is now a country of the United Kingdom, and the majority of English people in England are British Citizens...

 geologist
Geology
Geology is the science comprising the study of solid Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which it evolves. Geology gives insight into the history of the Earth, as it provides the primary evidence for plate tectonics, the evolutionary history of life, and past climates...

, palaeontologist
Paleontology
Paleontology "old, ancient", ὄν, ὀντ- "being, creature", and λόγος "speech, thought") is the study of prehistoric life. It includes the study of fossils to determine organisms' evolution and interactions with each other and their environments...

 and Dean of Westminster, who wrote the first full account of a fossil
Fossil
Fossils are the preserved remains or traces of animals , plants, and other organisms from the remote past...

 dinosaur
Dinosaur
Dinosaurs are a diverse group of animals of the clade and superorder Dinosauria. They were the dominant terrestrial vertebrates for over 160 million years, from the late Triassic period until the end of the Cretaceous , when the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event led to the extinction of...

, which he named Megalosaurus
Megalosaurus
Megalosaurus is a genus of large meat-eating theropod dinosaurs of the Middle Jurassic period of Europe...

. His work proving that Kirkdale Cave
Kirkdale Cave
Kirkdale Cave is a cave located in Kirkdale near Kirkbymoorside in the Vale of Pickering, North Yorkshire, England. The cave was discovered by workmen in 1821, and was found to contain fossilized bones of a variety of mammals not currently found in Great Britain, including hippopotamus, the...

 had been a prehistoric hyaena
Hyena
Hyenas or Hyaenas are the animals of the family Hyaenidae of suborder feliforms of the Carnivora. It is the fourth smallest biological family in the Carnivora , and one of the smallest in the mammalia...

 den, for which he was awarded the Copley Medal
Copley Medal
The Copley Medal is an award given by the Royal Society of London for "outstanding achievements in research in any branch of science, and alternates between the physical sciences and the biological sciences"...

, was widely praised as an example of how detailed scientific analysis could be used to understand geohistory by reconstructing events from deep time
Deep time
Deep time is the concept that the Geologic time scale is vast because the Earth is very old. The modern philosophical concept was developed in the 18th century by Scottish geologist James Hutton...

. He was a pioneer in the use of fossilized feces, for which he coined the term coprolite
Coprolite
A coprolite is fossilized animal dung. Coprolites are classified as trace fossils as opposed to body fossils, as they give evidence for the animal's behaviour rather than morphology. The name is derived from the Greek words κοπρος / kopros meaning 'dung' and λιθος / lithos meaning 'stone'. They...

s, to reconstruct ancient ecosystems. Buckland was a proponent of the Gap Theory
Gap Creationism
Gap creationism is a form of Old Earth creationism that posits that the six-day creation, as described in the Book of Genesis, involved literal 24-hour days, but that there was a gap of time between two distinct creations in the first and the second verses of Genesis, explaining...

 that interpreted the biblical account of Genesis as referring to two separate episodes of creation separated by a lengthy period; it emerged in the late 18th and early 19th centuries as a way to reconcile the scriptural account with discoveries in geology that suggested the earth was very old. Early in his career he believed that he had found geologic evidence of the biblical flood, but later became convinced that the glaciation theory
Ice age
An ice age or, more precisely, glacial age, is a generic geological period of long-term reduction in the temperature of the Earth's surface and atmosphere, resulting in the presence or expansion of continental ice sheets, polar ice sheets and alpine glaciers...

 of Louis Agassiz
Louis Agassiz
Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz was a Swiss paleontologist, glaciologist, geologist and a prominent innovator in the study of the Earth's natural history. He grew up in Switzerland and became a professor of natural history at University of Neuchâtel...

 provided a better explanation, and he played an important role in promoting that theory in Great Britain.

Early life and university



Buckland was born at Axminster
Axminster
Axminster is a market town and civil parish on the eastern border of Devon in England. The town is built on a hill overlooking the River Axe which heads towards the English Channel at Axmouth, and is in the East Devon local government district. It has a population of 5,626. The market is still...

 in Devon
Devon
Devon is a large county in southwestern England. The county is sometimes referred to as Devonshire, although the term is rarely used inside the county itself as the county has never been officially "shired", it often indicates a traditional or historical context.The county shares borders with...

 and, as a child, would accompany his father, the Rector of Templeton and Trusham, on his walks where interest in road improvements led to collecting fossil shells, including ammonite
Ammonite
Ammonite, as a zoological or paleontological term, refers to any member of the Ammonoidea an extinct subclass within the Molluscan class Cephalopoda which are more closely related to living coleoids Ammonite, as a zoological or paleontological term, refers to any member of the Ammonoidea an extinct...

s, from the Jurassic
Jurassic
The Jurassic is a geologic period and system that extends from about Mya to  Mya, that is, from the end of the Triassic to the beginning of the Cretaceous. The Jurassic constitutes the middle period of the Mesozoic era, also known as the age of reptiles. The start of the period is marked by...

 lias rocks exposed in local quarries.

He was educated first at Blundell's School
Blundell's School
Blundell's School is a co-educational day and boarding independent school located in the town of Tiverton in the county of Devon, England. The school was founded in 1604 by the will of Peter Blundell, one of the richest men in England at the time, and relocated to its present location on the...

, Tiverton, Devon, and then at Winchester College
Winchester College
Winchester College is an independent school for boys in the British public school tradition, situated in Winchester, Hampshire, the former capital of England. It has existed in its present location for over 600 years and claims the longest unbroken history of any school in England...

, from where in 1801 he won a scholarship to study for the ministry at Corpus Christi College, Oxford
Corpus Christi College, Oxford
Corpus Christi College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom...

, also attending the lectures of John Kidd on mineralogy and chemistry, as well as developing an interest in geology and carrying out field research on strata
Stratum
In geology and related fields, a stratum is a layer of sedimentary rock or soil with internally consistent characteristics that distinguish it from other layers...

, during vacations. Having taken his BA in 1804, he went on to obtain his MA degree in 1808. He then became a Fellow
Fellow
A fellow in the broadest sense is someone who is an equal or a comrade. The term fellow is also used to describe a person, particularly by those in the upper social classes. It is most often used in an academic context: a fellow is often part of an elite group of learned people who are awarded...

 of Corpus Christi in 1809, was ordained as a priest and continued to make frequent geological excursions, on horseback, to various parts of England, Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

, Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

 and Wales
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

. In 1813, he was appointed reader in mineralogy, in succession to John Kidd, giving lively and popular lectures with increasing emphasis on geology and palaeontology. As (unofficial) curator of the Ashmolean Museum
Ashmolean Museum
The Ashmolean Museum on Beaumont Street, Oxford, England, is the world's first university museum...

, he built up collections, touring Europe and coming into contact with scientists including Georges Cuvier
Georges Cuvier
Georges Chrétien Léopold Dagobert Cuvier or Jean Léopold Nicolas Frédéric Cuvier , known as Georges Cuvier, was a French naturalist and zoologist...

.

Rejection of flood geology and Kirkdale Cave



In 1818, Buckland was elected a fellow of the Royal Society
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

. That year he persuaded the Prince Regent
Prince Regent
A prince regent is a prince who rules a monarchy as regent instead of a monarch, e.g., due to the Sovereign's incapacity or absence ....

 to endow an additional Readership, this time in Geology and he became the first holder of the new appointment, delivering his inaugural address on 15 May 1819. This was published in 1820 as Vindiciæ Geologiæ; or the Connexion of Geology with Religion explained, both justifying the new science of geology and reconciling geological evidence with the biblical
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 accounts of creation and Noah's Flood
Noah's Ark
Noah's Ark is a vessel appearing in the Book of Genesis and the Quran . These narratives describe the construction of the ark by Noah at God's command to save himself, his family, and the world's animals from the worldwide deluge of the Great Flood.In the narrative of the ark, God sees the...

. At a time when others were coming under the opposing influence of James Hutton
James Hutton
James Hutton was a Scottish physician, geologist, naturalist, chemical manufacturer and experimental agriculturalist. He is considered the father of modern geology...

's theory of uniformitarianism
Uniformitarianism (science)
In the philosophy of naturalism, the uniformitarianism assumption is that the same natural laws and processes that operate in the universe now, have always operated in the universe in the past and apply everywhere in the universe. It has included the gradualistic concept that "the present is the...

, Buckland developed a new hypothesis that the word "beginning" in Genesis meant an undefined period between the origin of the earth and the creation of its current inhabitants, during which a long series of extinctions and successive creations of new kinds of plants and animals had occurred. Thus, his catastrophism
Catastrophism
Catastrophism is the theory that the Earth has been affected in the past by sudden, short-lived, violent events, possibly worldwide in scope. The dominant paradigm of modern geology is uniformitarianism , in which slow incremental changes, such as erosion, create the Earth's appearance...

 theory incorporated a version of Old Earth creationism
Old Earth creationism
Old Earth creationism is an umbrella term for a number of types of creationism, including gap creationism and progressive creationism...

 or Gap creationism
Gap Creationism
Gap creationism is a form of Old Earth creationism that posits that the six-day creation, as described in the Book of Genesis, involved literal 24-hour days, but that there was a gap of time between two distinct creations in the first and the second verses of Genesis, explaining...

. Buckland believed in a global deluge during the time of Noah but was not a supporter of flood geology
Flood geology
Flood geology is the interpretation of the geological history of the Earth in terms of the global flood described in Genesis 6–9. Similar views played a part in the early development of the science of geology, even after the Biblical chronology had been rejected by geologists in favour of an...

 as he believed that only a small amount of the strata could have been formed in the single year occupied by the deluge.

From his investigations of fossil bones at Kirkdale Cave
Kirkdale Cave
Kirkdale Cave is a cave located in Kirkdale near Kirkbymoorside in the Vale of Pickering, North Yorkshire, England. The cave was discovered by workmen in 1821, and was found to contain fossilized bones of a variety of mammals not currently found in Great Britain, including hippopotamus, the...

, in Yorkshire
Yorkshire
Yorkshire is a historic county of northern England and the largest in the United Kingdom. Because of its great size in comparison to other English counties, functions have been increasingly undertaken over time by its subdivisions, which have also been subject to periodic reform...

, he concluded that the cave had actually been inhabited by hyaenas
Hyena
Hyenas or Hyaenas are the animals of the family Hyaenidae of suborder feliforms of the Carnivora. It is the fourth smallest biological family in the Carnivora , and one of the smallest in the mammalia...

 in antediluvian times, and that the fossils were the remains of these hyaenas and the animals they had eaten, rather than being remains of animals that had perished in the Flood and then carried from the tropics by the surging waters, as he and others had at first thought. In 1822 he wrote:


It must already appear probable, from the facts above described, particularly from the comminuted state and apparently gnawed condition of the bones, that the cave in Kirkdale was, during a long succession of years, inhabited as a den of hyaenas, and that they dragged into its recesses the other animal bodies whose remains are found mixed indiscriminately with their own: this conjecture is rendered almost certain by the discovery I made, of many small balls of the solid calcareous excrement of an animal that had fed on bones... It was at first sight recognized by the keeper of the Menagerie at Exter Change, as resembling, in both form and appearance, the faeces of the spotted or cape hyaena, which he stated to be greedy of bones beyond all other beasts in his care.


While criticized by some, Buckland's analysis of Kirkland Cave and other bone caves was widely seen as a model for how careful analysis could be used to reconstruct the Earth's past, and the Royal Society awarded Buckland the Copley Medal
Copley Medal
The Copley Medal is an award given by the Royal Society of London for "outstanding achievements in research in any branch of science, and alternates between the physical sciences and the biological sciences"...

 in 1822 for his paper on Kirkdale Cave. At the presentation the society's president, Humphry Davy
Humphry Davy
Sir Humphry Davy, 1st Baronet FRS MRIA was a British chemist and inventor. He is probably best remembered today for his discoveries of several alkali and alkaline earth metals, as well as contributions to the discoveries of the elemental nature of chlorine and iodine...

, said:

by these inquiries, a distinct epoch has, as it were, been established in the history of the revolutions of our globe: a point fixed from which our researches may be pursued through the immensity of ages, and the records of animate nature, as it were, carried back to the time of the creation.


While Buckland's analysis convinced him that the Bones found in Kirkdale Cave had not been washed into the cave by a global flood, he still believed the thin layer of mud that covered the remains of the hyaena den had been deposited in the subsequent 'Universal Deluge'. He developed these ideas into his great scientific work Reliquiæ Diluvianæ, or, Observations on the Organic Remains attesting the Action of a Universal Deluge which was published in 1823 and became a best seller. However, over the next decade as geology continued to progress Buckland changed his mind. In his famous Bridgewater Treatise, published in 1836, he acknowledged that the biblical account of Noah's flood could not be confirmed using geological evidence. By 1840 he was very actively promoting the view that what had been interpreted as evidence of the 'Universal Deluge' two decades earlier, and subsequently of deep submergence by a new generation of geologists such as Charles Lyell, was in fact evidence of a major glaciation.

Megalosaurus and marriage



He continued to live in Corpus Christi College and, in 1824, he became president
President of the Geological Society of London
The President of the Geological Society of London is the President of the Geological Society of London.- List of presidents :* 1807 - 1813 George Bellas Greenough* 1813 - 1815 Henry Grey Bennet* 1815 - 1816 William Blake* 1816 - 1818 John MacCulloch...

 of the Geological Society of London
Geological Society of London
The Geological Society of London is a learned society based in the United Kingdom with the aim of "investigating the mineral structure of the Earth"...

. Here he announced the discovery, at Stonesfield, of fossil bones of a giant reptile which he named Megalosaurus
Megalosaurus
Megalosaurus is a genus of large meat-eating theropod dinosaurs of the Middle Jurassic period of Europe...

 (great lizard) and wrote the first full account of what would later be called a dinosaur
Dinosaur
Dinosaurs are a diverse group of animals of the clade and superorder Dinosauria. They were the dominant terrestrial vertebrates for over 160 million years, from the late Triassic period until the end of the Cretaceous , when the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event led to the extinction of...

.

In 1825, Buckland resigned his college fellowship: he planned to take up the living of Stoke Charity
Stoke Charity
Stoke Charity is a small village that lies within the Wonston civil parish in the City of Winchester district of Hampshire, England. Its nearest town is Winchester, which lies approximately 6.1 miles south-west from the village....

 in Hampshire
Hampshire
Hampshire is a county on the southern coast of England in the United Kingdom. The county town of Hampshire is Winchester, a historic cathedral city that was once the capital of England. Hampshire is notable for housing the original birthplaces of the Royal Navy, British Army, and Royal Air Force...

 but, before he could take up the appointment, he was made a Canon
Canon (priest)
A canon is a priest or minister who is a member of certain bodies of the Christian clergy subject to an ecclesiastical rule ....

 of Christ Church
Christ Church, Oxford
Christ Church or house of Christ, and thus sometimes known as The House), is one of the largest constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England...

, a rich reward for academic distinction without serious administrative responsibilities. In December of that year he married Mary Morland of Abingdon
Abingdon, Oxfordshire
Abingdon or archaically Abingdon-on-Thames is a market town and civil parish in Oxfordshire, England. It is the seat of the Vale of White Horse district. Previously the county town of Berkshire, Abingdon is one of several places that claim to be Britain's oldest continuously occupied town, with...

, Oxfordshire
Oxfordshire
Oxfordshire is a county in the South East region of England, bordering on Warwickshire and Northamptonshire , Buckinghamshire , Berkshire , Wiltshire and Gloucestershire ....

, an accomplished illustrator and collector of fossils. Their honeymoon was a year touring Europe, with visits to famous geologists and geological sites. She continued to assist him in his work, as well as having nine children, five of whom survived to adulthood. His son Frank Buckland
Francis Trevelyan Buckland
Francis Trevelyan Buckland was an English surgeon, zoologist, popular author and natural historian. He was the son of William Buckland, the noted geologist and palaeontologist.- Life :...

 became a well-known practical naturalist, author, and Inspector of Salmon Fisheries. On one occasion, Mary helped him decipher footmarks, found in a slab of sandstone, by covering the kitchen table with paste, while he fetched their pet tortoise and confirmed his intuition, that tortoise footprints matched the fossil marks.

His passion for scientific observation and experiment extended to his home life. Not only was his house filled with specimens – animal as well as mineral, live as well as dead – but he claimed to have eaten his way through the animal kingdom: zoophagy. The most distasteful items were mole and bluebottle; panther, crocodile and mouse were among the other dishes noted by guests. Augustus Hare
Augustus Hare
Augustus John Cuthbert Hare was an English writer and raconteur.He was the youngest son of Francis George Hare of Herstmonceux, East Sussex, and Gresford, Flintshire, Wales, and nephew of Augustus William Hare and Julius Hare...

, a famous English raconteur and contemporary, recalled, “Talk of strange relics led to mention of the heart of a French King preserved at Nuneham in a silver casket. Dr. Buckland, whilst looking at it, exclaimed, ‘I have eaten many strange things, but have never eaten the heart of a king before,’ and, before anyone could hinder him, he had gobbled it up, and the precious relic was lost for ever.” The heart in question is said to have been that of Louis XIV. Buckland was followed in this bizarre hobby by his son Frank
Francis Trevelyan Buckland
Francis Trevelyan Buckland was an English surgeon, zoologist, popular author and natural historian. He was the son of William Buckland, the noted geologist and palaeontologist.- Life :...

.

The Red Lady of Paviland


On 18th January 1823 Buckland climbed down to Paviland Cave, where he discovered the Red Lady of Paviland
Red Lady of Paviland
The Red Lady of Paviland is a fairly complete Upper Paleolithic-era human male skeleton dyed in red ochre. It was the first human fossil to have been found anywhere in the world and is also the oldest ceremonial burial anywhere in Western Europe so far discovered. The bones were discovered between...

, so-called as Buckland originally thought it to a local prostitute, in Wales
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

, which remains the oldest anatomically modern human found in the United Kingdom. Although he found the skeleton in Paviland Cave in the same strata as the bones of extinct mammals (including mammoth
Mammoth
A mammoth is any species of the extinct genus Mammuthus. These proboscideans are members of Elephantidae, the family of elephants and mammoths, and close relatives of modern elephants. They were often equipped with long curved tusks and, in northern species, a covering of long hair...

), Buckland shared the view of Georges Cuvier
Georges Cuvier
Georges Chrétien Léopold Dagobert Cuvier or Jean Léopold Nicolas Frédéric Cuvier , known as Georges Cuvier, was a French naturalist and zoologist...

 that no humans had coexisted with any extinct animals, and he attributed the skeleton's presence there to a grave having been dug in historical times, possibly by the same people who had constructed some nearby pre-Roman fortifications, into the older layers. Carbon-data tests have since dated the skeleton, now known to be male as from circa 33,000 years before present (BP)
Before Present
Before Present years is a time scale used in archaeology, geology, and other scientific disciplines to specify when events in the past occurred. Because the "present" time changes, standard practice is to use AD 1950 as the origin of the age scale, reflecting the fact that radiocarbon...

.

Coprolites and the Lias food chain


The fossil hunter Mary Anning
Mary Anning
Mary Anning was a British fossil collector, dealer and palaeontologist who became known around the world for a number of important finds she made in the Jurassic age marine fossil beds at Lyme Regis where she lived...

 had noticed that stony objects known as "bezoar
Bezoar
A bezoar is a mass found trapped in the gastrointestinal system , though it can occur in other locations. A pseudobezoar is an indigestible object introduced intentionally into the digestive system....

 stones" were often found in the abdominal region of ichthyosaur
Ichthyosaur
Ichthyosaurs were giant marine reptiles that resembled fish and dolphins...

 skeletons found in the Lias
Lias Group
The Lias Group or Lias is a lithostratigraphic unit found in a large area of western Europe, including the British Isles, the North Sea, the low countries and the north of Germany...

 formation at Lyme Regis
Lyme Regis
Lyme Regis is a coastal town in West Dorset, England, situated 25 miles west of Dorchester and east of Exeter. The town lies in Lyme Bay, on the English Channel coast at the Dorset-Devon border...

. She also noted that if such stones were broken open they often contained fossilized fish bones and scales as well as sometimes bones from small ichthyosaurs. These observations by Anning lead Buckland to propose in 1829 that the stones were fossilized feces and coin the name coprolite
Coprolite
A coprolite is fossilized animal dung. Coprolites are classified as trace fossils as opposed to body fossils, as they give evidence for the animal's behaviour rather than morphology. The name is derived from the Greek words κοπρος / kopros meaning 'dung' and λιθος / lithos meaning 'stone'. They...

, which came to be the general name for all fossilized feces, for them. Buckland also concluded that the spiral markings on the fossils indicated that ichthyosaurs had spiral ridges in their intestines similar to those of modern sharks, and that some of these coprolites were black because the ichthyosaur had ingested ink sacs from belemnites. He wrote a vivid description of the liasic food chain based on these observations, which would inspire Henry De la Beche
Henry De la Beche
Sir Henry Thomas De la Beche FRS was an English geologist and palaeontologist who helped pioneer early geological survey methods.-Biography:...

 to paint Duria Antiquior
Duria Antiquior
Duria Antiquior, a more ancient Dorset, was the first pictorial representation of a scene of prehistoric life based on evidence from fossil reconstructions, which is now commonly known as paleoart. The first version was a watercolour painted in 1830 by the English geologist Henry De la Beche based...

, the first pictorial representation of a scene from deep time
Deep time
Deep time is the concept that the Geologic time scale is vast because the Earth is very old. The modern philosophical concept was developed in the 18th century by Scottish geologist James Hutton...

. After De le Beche had a lithographic print made based on his original watercolour, Buckland kept a supply of the prints on hand to circulate at his lectures. He also discussed other similar objects found in other formations, including the fossilized hyena dung he had found in Kirkdale Cave. He concluded:

In all these various formations our Coprolites form records of warfare, waged by successive generations of inhabitants of our planet on one another: the imperishable phosphate of lime, derived from their digested skeletons, has become embalmed in the substance and foundations of the everlasting hills; and the general law of Nature which bids all to eat and be eaten in their turn, is shown to have been co-extensive with animal existence on our globe; the Carnivora in each period of the world's history fulfilling their destined office, — to check excess in the progress of life, and maintain the balance of creation.

Buckland had been helping and encouraging Roderick Murchison
Roderick Murchison
Sir Roderick Impey Murchison, 1st Baronet KCB DCL FRS FRSE FLS PRGS PBA MRIA was a Scottish geologist who first described and investigated the Silurian system.-Early life and work:...

 for some years and in 1831 was able to suggest a very good starting point in South Wales for Murchison's researches into the rocks beneath the secondary strata associated with the age of reptiles
Mesozoic
The Mesozoic era is an interval of geological time from about 250 million years ago to about 65 million years ago. It is often referred to as the age of reptiles because reptiles, namely dinosaurs, were the dominant terrestrial and marine vertebrates of the time...

. Murchison would later name these older strata, characterized by marine invertebrate fossils, as Silurian
Silurian
The Silurian is a geologic period and system that extends from the end of the Ordovician Period, about 443.7 ± 1.5 Mya , to the beginning of the Devonian Period, about 416.0 ± 2.8 Mya . As with other geologic periods, the rock beds that define the period's start and end are well identified, but the...

 after a tribe that had lived in that area centuries earlier. In 1832 Buckland presided over the second meeting of the British Association
British Association for the Advancement of Science
frame|right|"The BA" logoThe British Association for the Advancement of Science or the British Science Association, formerly known as the BA, is a learned society with the object of promoting science, directing general attention to scientific matters, and facilitating interaction between...

, which was then held at Oxford.

Bridgewater Treatise


He was commissioned to contribute one of the set of eight Bridgewater Treatises, "On the Power, Wisdom and Goodness of God, as manifested in the Creation". This took him almost five years' work and was published in 1836 with the title Geology and Mineralogy considered with reference to Natural Theology. His volume included a detailed compendium of his theories of day-age, gap theory and a form of progressive creationism
Progressive creationism
Progressive creationism is the religious belief that God created new forms of life gradually, over a period of hundreds of millions of years. As a form of Old Earth creationism, it accepts mainstream geological and cosmological estimates for the age of the Earth, but posits that the new "kinds" of...

 where faunal succession revealed by the fossil record was explained by a series of successive divine creations that prepared the earth for humans. In the introduction he expressed the argument from design by asserting that the families and phyla of biology were "clusters of contrivance":
The myriads of petrified Remains which are disclosed by the researches of Geology all tend to prove that our Planet has been occupied in times preceding the Creation of the Human Race, by extinct species of Animals and Vegetables, made up, like living Organic Bodies, of 'Clusters of Contrivances,' which demonstrate the exercise of stupendous Intelligence and Power. They further show that these extinct forms of Organic Life were so closely allied, by Unity in the principles of their construction, to Classes, Orders, and Families, which make up the existing Animal and Vegetable Kingdoms, that they not only afford an argument of surpassing force, against the doctrines of the Atheist and Polytheist; but supply a chain of connected evidence, amounting to demonstration, of the continuous Being, and of many of the highest Attributes of the One Living and True God.


In response, computing pioneer Charles Babbage
Charles Babbage
Charles Babbage, FRS was an English mathematician, philosopher, inventor and mechanical engineer who originated the concept of a programmable computer...

 produced his "Ninth Bridgewater Treatise
Ninth Bridgewater Treatise
The Ninth Bridgewater Treatise was published by Charles Babbage in 1837 as a response to the eight Bridgewater Treatises that the Earl of Bridgewater, Francis Henry Egerton, 8th Earl, had funded and in particular with reference to a comment in one of them by William WhewellIt can be described as a...

"
.

Following Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.He published his theory...

's return from the Beagle voyage
Second voyage of HMS Beagle
The second voyage of HMS Beagle, from 27 December 1831 to 2 October 1836, was the second survey expedition of HMS Beagle, under captain Robert FitzRoy who had taken over command of the ship on its first voyage after her previous captain committed suicide...

, Buckland discussed with him the Galapagos Land Iguana
Galapagos Land Iguana
The Galapagos Land Iguana is a species of lizard in the Iguanidae family. It is one of three species of the genus Conolophus...

s and Marine Iguana
Marine iguana
The Marine Iguana is an iguana found only on the Galápagos Islands that has the ability, unique among modern lizards, to live and forage in the sea, making it a marine reptile. The Iguana can dive over 30 ft into the water. It has spread to all the islands in the archipelago, and is...

s. He subsequently recommended Darwin's paper on the role of earthworm
Earthworm
Earthworm is the common name for the largest members of Oligochaeta in the phylum Annelida. In classical systems they were placed in the order Opisthopora, on the basis of the male pores opening posterior to the female pores, even though the internal male segments are anterior to the female...

s in soil formation
Pedogenesis
Pedogenesis is the science and study of the processes that lead to the formation of soil ' and first explored by the Russian geologist Vasily Dokuchaev , the so called grandfather of soil science, who determined that soil formed over time as a consequence of...

 for publication, praising it as "a new & important theory to explain Phenomena of universal occurrence on the surface of the Earth—in fact a new Geological Power", while rightly rejecting Darwin's suggestion that chalkland could have been formed in a similar way.

Glaciation theory


By this time Buckland was a prominent and influential scientific celebrity and a friend of the Tory
Tory
Toryism is a traditionalist and conservative political philosophy which grew out of the Cavalier faction in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. It is a prominent ideology in the politics of the United Kingdom, but also features in parts of The Commonwealth, particularly in Canada...

 prime minister, Sir Robert Peel
Robert Peel
Sir Robert Peel, 2nd Baronet was a British Conservative statesman who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 10 December 1834 to 8 April 1835, and again from 30 August 1841 to 29 June 1846...

. In co-operation with Adam Sedgwick
Adam Sedgwick
Adam Sedgwick was one of the founders of modern geology. He proposed the Devonian period of the geological timescale...

 and Charles Lyell
Charles Lyell
Sir Charles Lyell, 1st Baronet, Kt FRS was a British lawyer and the foremost geologist of his day. He is best known as the author of Principles of Geology, which popularised James Hutton's concepts of uniformitarianism – the idea that the earth was shaped by slow-moving forces still in operation...

, he prepared the report leading to establishment of the Geological Survey of Great Britain.

Having become interested in the theory of Louis Agassiz
Louis Agassiz
Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz was a Swiss paleontologist, glaciologist, geologist and a prominent innovator in the study of the Earth's natural history. He grew up in Switzerland and became a professor of natural history at University of Neuchâtel...

, that polished and striated rocks as well as transported material, had been caused by ancient glaciers, he travelled to Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

, in 1838, to meet Agassiz and see for himself. He was convinced and was reminded of what he had seen in Scotland, Wales and northern England but had previously attributed to the Flood. When Agassiz came to Britain for the Glasgow
Glasgow
Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland and third most populous in the United Kingdom. The city is situated on the River Clyde in the country's west central lowlands...

 meeting of the British Association, in 1840, they went on an extended tour of Scotland and found evidence there of former glaciation. In that year Buckland had become president of the Geological Society again and, despite their hostile reaction to his presentation of the theory, he was now satisfied that glaciation had been the origin of much of the surface deposits covering Britain.

In 1845 he was appointed by Sir Robert Peel to the vacant Deanery of Westminster (he succeeded Samuel Wilberforce
Samuel Wilberforce
Samuel Wilberforce was an English bishop in the Church of England, third son of William Wilberforce. Known as "Soapy Sam", Wilberforce was one of the greatest public speakers of his time and place...

). Soon after, he was inducted to the living of Islip
Islip, Oxfordshire
Islip is a village and civil parish on the River Ray, just above its confluence with the River Cherwell in Oxfordshire, England. It is about east of Kidlington and about north of Oxford. This village in Oxfordshire is not related to Islip, New York...

, near Oxford, a preferment attached to the deanery. As Dean and head of Chapter, Buckland was involved in repair and maintenance of Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey
The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, popularly known as Westminster Abbey, is a large, mainly Gothic church, in the City of Westminster, London, United Kingdom, located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English,...

 and in preaching suitable sermons to the rural population of Islip, while continuing to lecture on geology at Oxford. In 1847, he was appointed a trustee in the British Museum
British Museum
The British Museum is a museum of human history and culture in London. Its collections, which number more than seven million objects, are amongst the largest and most comprehensive in the world and originate from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its...

 and, in 1848, he was awarded the Wollaston Medal
Wollaston Medal
The Wollaston Medal is a scientific award for geology, the highest award granted by the Geological Society of London.The medal is named after William Hyde Wollaston, and was first awarded in 1831...

, by the Geological Society of London.

Illness and death


Around the end of 1849, he contracted a disease which increasingly disabled him until his death in 1856. Post-mortem examination identified a tubercular infection of the upper cervical vertebrae which had spread to the brain. The plot for his grave had been reserved but, when the gravedigger set to work, it was found that an outcrop of solid Jurassic
Jurassic
The Jurassic is a geologic period and system that extends from about Mya to  Mya, that is, from the end of the Triassic to the beginning of the Cretaceous. The Jurassic constitutes the middle period of the Mesozoic era, also known as the age of reptiles. The start of the period is marked by...

 limestone lay just below ground level and explosives had to be used for excavation. This may have been a last jest by the noted geologist, reminiscent of Richard Whatley’s Elegy intended for Professor Buckland written in 1820:
Where shall we our great Professor inter
That in peace may rest his bones?
If we hew him a rocky sepulchre
He’ll rise and break the stones
And examine each stratum that lies around
For he’s quite in his element underground


Known eccentricities


Buckland was known for keeping various exotic animals inside his house. He was also determined to eat every known animal. Buckland also preferred to do his field palaeontology and geological work wearing an academic gown.

See also

  • Earl of Bridgewater for other Bridgewater Treatise
  • The Great Chain of History: William Buckland and the English School of Geology 1814-1849. by Nicolaas Rupke. Oxford University Press. 1983.
  • Dorsum Buckland
    Dorsum Buckland
    Dorsum Buckland is a large wrinkle ridge at in Mare Serenitatis on the Moon, 380 km long. It is named after William Buckland.Dorsum Buckland's ridges are 200 to 300 meters high and were formed by compressional stresses near the center of the basin, possibly over buried basin structures....

    , a wrinkle ridge on the Moon named after him.
  • Buckland Island (known today as Ani-Jima), in the Bonin Islands (Ogasawara-Jima), named after Professor Buckland by Captain Beechey in 9 June 1827.
  • History of paleontology
    History of paleontology
    The history of paleontology traces the history of the effort to understand the history of life on Earth by studying the fossil record left behind by living organisms...

     for more on his contributions to the development of that field.

External links



Further reading


  • Rupke, Nicolaas
    Nicolaas Adrianus Rupke
    Nicolaas Adrianus Rupke is a Dutch historian of science, who began his academic career as a marine geologist.He studied biology and geology at the university of Groningen and geology and the history of science at Princeton and Oxford...

    , (1983), The Great Chain of History: William Buckland and the English School of Geology. Oxford: Clarendon Press.