Grenville Arthur James Cole (1859–1924): the cycling geologist
Patrick N. Wyse Jackson, 2007. "Grenville Arthur James Cole (1859–1924): the cycling geologist", Four Centuries of Geological Travel: The Search for Knowledge on Foot, Bicycle, Sledge and Camel, P. N. Wyse Jackson
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Grenville Arthur James Cole (1859–1924), Professor of Geology at the Royal College of Science for Ireland, was an avid cyclist and shared this passion with his wife Blanche. Born in London, Cole studied at the Royal School of Mines and lectured for a number of years at Bedford College for Ladies. Largely concurrent with his professorship he served as Director of the Geological Survey of Ireland at a time when it was in moderate decline.
He undertook many cycling tours around continental Europe and Ireland. These trips were recounted in two early travel books. The Gypsy Road: a Journey from Krakow to Coblentz, published in 1894, provides a delightful account of a tour undertaken by him on a tricycle and his companion on a penny farthing, across what is now Poland, the Czech Republic, and eastern Germany. In a later slim volume entitled As We Ride, co-authored with his wife, a number of expeditions to France and the Balkans are eloquently described. Between 1902 and 1908 he organized a week-long geological excursion to various parts of Ireland for his students, and transport was by train and bicycle.
His cycling trips provided him with the opportunity to collect research materials, make geological observations, and to photograph features of interest. Subsequently much of this material was used in his publications and in teaching. Cole's main academic studies were in igneous and metamorphic petrology. He valued and promoted fieldwork as an essential component of geological training. He was heavily involved with professional and amateur scientific societies, and was a prolific author of both academic and popular geological papers and books.
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In the last four centuries geologists have traversed the globe, searching for economically important materials or simply to satisfy their intellectual curiosity. Geologists have often been at the vanguard of scientific exploration.
The microscopist Robert Hooke explored the Isle of Wight, and Charles Darwin the Cape Verde islands and parts of South America. The volcanic wonders of Italy and central France attracted native and foreign visitors including Lyell and Murchison. The Tyrrell brothers faced great hardship in northern Canada, as did the actor and mineralogist Charles Lewis Giesecke in Greenland. The development of Sydney, Australia depended on finding limestone for building. French geologists relied on camels in the Sahara, and Grenville Cole trusted his tricycle to carry him across Europe.
Four Centuries of Geological Travel: The Search for Knowledge on Foot, Bicycle, Sledge and Camel focuses on the complexities of geological exploration and will be of particular interest to Earth scientists, historians of science and to the general reader interested in science.