Only three of the 13 founding members of the Geological Society of London were Quakers: William Allen and the brothers Richard and William Phillips. As dissenters, they sought to play a significant part in this new scientific development because they were in many ways excluded from English civil society. Such exclusion had encouraged their entry into trade and commerce, and they saw science as a means of improving the world and their place in it. Their great agitation against slavery, at its height just as the Geological Society of London was founded, significantly enhanced their coherence as a group. One of the first fruits of their interest in science was the Askesian Society, founded in 1796 by Allen and William Phillips, among others. With over half of its membership made up of Quakers, the Askesian was amongst the earlier of the London scientific societies. From its membership, in 1799, grew the British Mineralogical Society, which planned, by survey and analysis, to produce a mineral history of Britain. With Allen, and soon both Phillips brothers, involved in manufacture, analysis and lecturing in the field of chemistry, these interests inevitably led them to want to better understand, and use, mineral resources and to contribute to the founding of the Geological Society.
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The Making of the Geological Society of London
Founded in 1807, the Geological Society of London became the world’s first learned society devoted to the Earth sciences. In celebration of the Society’s 200-year history, this book commemorates the lives of the Society’s 13 founders and sets geology in its national and European context at the turn of the nineteenth century. In Britain, geology was emerging as a subject in its own right from three closely related disciplines — chemistry, mineralogy and medicine — disciplines that reflect the principal professions and interests of the founders. The tremendous energy and cooperation of these 13 men, about whom little was previously known, quickly mobilized like-minded men around the country and fuelled the nation’s passion for geology; an enthusiasm that soon spread to America and Australia. Two previously unpublished works from this period, essential to understanding the founding of the Society, are reproduced here for the first time. The book closes with a review of the Society’s 2007 Bicentenary celebrations.