Sir Roderick Impy Murchison died 100 years ago. One of the last political acts of his busy life was to provide an endowment of £6,000 to the University of Edinburgh in 1870 so that a Chair of Geology might be founded. At the same time he ensured that his protégé Archibald Geikie was appointed to the post in 1871. Among Geikie's correspondence, now in the library of the University, are letters on the notorious Cambrian-Silurian controversy involving Murchison and Council members of the Geological Society of London. The letters followed the publication of Sedgwick's paper on the classification and nomenclature of the Lower Palaeozoic rocks of England and Wales in the Quarterly Journal of the Society in 1852. For good measure there is also a document by Murchison setting out his considered views on the controversy and an earlier letter written but never sent to Sedgwick in which Murchison comments candidly on his mother-in-law and his religious creed.
The main story spans the life of two Councils of the Geological Society—those of 1851 and 1852—but the events themselves are crowded into the period February to June 1852. The Council for 1852 consisted of: D. T. Ansted W.J. Hamilton (Secretary) Lt.-Coh Portloek R. A. C. Austen J. D. Hooker S.P. Pratt J. J. Bigsby W. Hopkins (President) J. L. Prevost J. S. Bowerbank L. Horner A.C. Ramsay C. J. F. Bunbury C. Lyell D. Sharpe E. Forbes G.A. Mantell W.W. Smyth G. B. Greenough R.I. Murchison
Most had served