Geology-Retrospect & Prospect: Edinburgh University Geology Department and the Geological Society of London, 10th September 1971.
Morning session-Chairman Professor W. A. Deer, F.R.S., President Geological Society.
Professor Craig of the Edinburgh Department introduced the first two speakers. Their visits as Edinburgh University Swiney Lecturers were made possible through a fund originally established to support medical students willing to lecture in geology!
1. The history of geology in Edinburgh: Professor D. B. McIntyre, Department of Geology, Pomona College, California.
After outlining the early history of Edinburgh University, Professor McIntyre described the brilliant circle of friends who were the contemporaries of James Hutton in late 18th century Edinburgh. Professor McIntyre’s remarkable abilities as an informal Scots raconteur brought to life, for an all too brief 40 minutes, characters whose portraits in the University by Raeburn are ‘better than written biographies’. They included Joseph Black ‘the midwife of modern chemistry’, his cousin Adam Ferguson, the brilliant lame lawyer John Clark, and Adam Smith. A meeting in the house of Adam Ferguson is commemorated in the famous painting including Scott (a friend of Ferguson’s son) Burns, Hutton and Black. The closeness of the Edinburgh group was exemplified by the appointment of Hutton and Black as literary executors for Hume, and of Hutton and Ferguson as executors for Adam Smith, whose dying words were-‘Gentlemen I regret the meeting will have to be adjourned to another place’.
Professor McIntyre commented that contrary to previous views Hutton’s writings were not more obscure than those of most modern