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Abstract

Four of the Founding Fathers of the Geological Society, Arthur Aikin, Richard Knight, William Hasledine Pepys and Humphry Davy, were chemists, coming to geology through mineralogy. The nature and status of chemistry in 1807 helps us to see why, and we note that chemists were down to earth and empirical minded in contrast to the speculative geologists of the eighteenth century. These four, a closely linked and coherent group, made various and important contributions to the scientific world in London generally, and to the Geological Society in particular. Nevertheless, Davy had very different expectations of the Society from the others: he wanted a dining club under the aegis of the Royal Society (of which he was Secretary), but they (successfully) sought a formal and separate body in which papers would be read and published. By the time of Davy’s death in 1829, the Society was chartered and flourishing; and the rise of palaeontology had made chemistry much less central to geology.

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