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Abstract

At the time the Geological Society was founded in 1807, Europe had entered the latter half of some 23 years of near-continuous warfare, in which the overall scale and intensity were wholly new. Wars from 1792 to 1815 affected the careers of many well-known geologists in France, Germany and the United Kingdom. Influential early members of the Society included a significant number of men with periods of military service or education, or militarily-funded employment: four of its 11 primary founders, Jacques-Louis, Comte de Bournon, James Franck, George Bellas Greenough and Richard Phillips, as well as six of its first 23 Presidents – Greenough, Henry Grey Bennet, John MacCulloch, Roderick Impey Murchison, Henry Thomas De la Beche and Joseph Ellison Portlock. Several councillors, such as Thomas Frederick Colby and John William Pringle, and three of its first five executives – William Lonsdale, David Thomas Ansted and T. Rupert Jones – also had military affiliations. Largely as a consequence of Napoleonic warfare, from 1814 to 1845 national geological mapping in Britain was supported by military funding, and between 1819 and the end of the century geology was a subject taught at various times in all military training establishments within Britain.

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