Picturesque ruin and geological antiquity:: Thomas Webster and Sir Henry Englefield on the Isle of Wight
Noah Heringman, 2009. "Picturesque ruin and geological antiquity:: Thomas Webster and Sir Henry Englefield on the Isle of Wight", The Making of the Geological Society of London, C. L. E. Lewis, S. J. Knell
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Thomas Webster published his earliest geological observations by commission in Sir Henry Englefield’s Description of the Isle of Wight (1816), a work concerned as much with historic architecture and picturesque landscape as with geology. This paper shows how Englefield’s broad three-part agenda fostered the development of Webster’s specifically geological competence and sensibility. As a professional draftsman and architect, Webster was especially well equipped to translate Englefield’s architectural and picturesque idiom into a more geological register. Their collaboration also illustrates how well the style and content of local history – a traditional literary and learned genre – could be applied to geology. For Webster in particular, the image of ruins was essential for representing the historicity of geological phenomena. This paper adduces close readings of numerous passages from Englefield and Webster’s work to show how strongly the traditional language and research questions of antiquarianism continued to shape geology even as it became a professional specialization.
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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 Two previously unpublished works from this period, essential to understanding the founding of the Society, are reproduced here for the first time.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.