Autobiography and documentable fact in the family background and religious affiliation of Archibald Geikie (1835–1924)
Published:January 01, 2019
Michael A. Taylor, 2019. "Autobiography and documentable fact in the family background and religious affiliation of Archibald Geikie (1835–1924)", Aspects of the Life and Works of Archibald Geikie, J. Betterton, J. Craig, J. R. Mendum, R. Neller, J. Tanner
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In his autobiography of 1924, Archibald Geikie (1835–1924) suppressed basic information about his family and religious beliefs. Investigation reveals a more complete picture of those aspects of Geikie’s life. He was brought up in a strongly religious family, of Congregational affiliation, which he himself followed as a young man. His father was in trade as an Edinburgh perfumer, hairdresser and wig manufacturer. Amongst several apparent family scandals were a near-murder committed by his brother (which led indirectly to Geikie’s departure from Edinburgh University), and the probable suicide of his son. Geikie’s later shift to middle-of-the-ground Anglicanism could be due to his marrying an Englishwoman, his move to England and/or the example of his patron Roderick Murchison. However, Geikie’s suppression of his earlier Congregationalism and of his family background in trade strongly suggests that the shift to Anglicanism was part of the ambitious Geikie’s career-building strategy, reinventing himself as one of the Anglicized ruling elite of the British empire. It probably also reflects the problems of establishing science as a profession in the political and religious context of the time. It may also be linked to Geikie’s apparently conservative politics. Those findings throw further light on Geikie’s approach to autobiography.
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Aspects of the Life and Works of Archibald Geikie
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Sir Archibald Geikie (1835–1924) was one of the most distinguished and influential geologists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He was Director-General of the Geological Survey of Great Britain, President of the Geological Society of London, President of the British Association, Trustee of the British Museum and President of the Royal Society. He was also an accomplished writer, a masterful lecturer and a talented artist who published over 200 scientific papers, books and articles.
The papers in this volume examine aspects of Geikie’s life and works, including his family history, his personal and professional relationships, his art, and his contributions as a field geologist and administrator. Together, they provide a deeper understanding of his life, his career and his contribution to the development of Geology as a scientific discipline. Much of the research is based on primary sources, including previously unpublished manuscripts, donated in part by members of the family to the Haslemere Educational Museum, UK.