In this chapter, new to this edition of The Geology of Scotland, we discuss some of the more interesting and important themes and personalities relating to the early history of Scottish geology. The topic is vast, and clearly it is impossible to cover all possible themes. A ‘regional’ approach is adopted, concentrating on selected areas of particular importance.
Present debates are necessarily rooted in the past. They grow from a complex intertwining of geographical, theoretical, personal, social, methodological, institutional and economic factors. We have sought to refer, albeit briefly, to all such aspects, but different features receive different emphases in the different regional accounts. The emphasis is chiefly on 19th century geology, but in most cases discussion has been carried through to the early 20th century, and in some cases we have briefly indicated how matters developed closer to the present. Although the material is organised chiefly by regions, an effort has also been made, as far as the subject matter allows, to provide a historically integrated account. Thus, we hope to offer a useful historical background to the more technical topics that appear in following chapters. The aim, however, is not to see the past from the eyes of the present; rather to see the present with the assistance of some knowledge of the past. Reversing the old adage, we should like to show that ‘the past is the key to the present’.