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William Buckland

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William Buckland

Born : 12 March 1784
City : Axminster, United Kingdom
Rank : ( 443 )
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William Buckland Biography

Buckland, William, 1784–1856, English geologist. He was dean of Westminster from 1845. First to note in England the action of glacial ice on rocks, he did much to bring physical and natural science into high repute and was responsible for giving Oxford (where he was a student and later a fellow) an international name in science. He wrote Reliquiae Diluvianae (1823) and Geology and Mineralogy Considered with Reference to Natural Theology(1836). Francis T. Buckland, English surgeon and naturalist, was his son.

Born: March 12, 1784, Axminster, United Kingdom
Died: August 14, 1856, Islip, United Kingdom
Children: Francis Trevelyan Buckland
Education: University of Oxford, Winchester College, Corpus Christi College, Oxford
Awards: Copley Medal

Early life and university

Buckland was born at Axminster in Devon and, as a child, would accompany his father, the Rector of Templeton and Trusham, on his walks where interest in road improvements led to collecting fossil shells, including ammonites, from the Jurassic lias rocks exposed in local quarries.

He was educated first at Blundell's School, Tiverton, Devon, and then at Winchester College, from where in 1801 he won a scholarship to study for the ministry at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, also attending the lectures of John Kidd on mineralogy and chemistry, as well as developing an interest in geology and carrying out field research on strata, during vacations. Having taken his BA in 1804, he went on to obtain his MA degree in 1808. He then became a Fellow of Corpus Christi in 1809, was ordained as a priest and continued to make frequent geological excursions, on horseback, to various parts of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. In 1813, he was appointed reader in mineralogy, in succession to John Kidd, giving lively and popular lectures with increasing emphasis on geology and palaeontology. As (unofficial) curator of the Ashmolean Museum, he built up collections, touring Europe and coming into contact with scientists including Georges Cuvier.

Illness and death
Around the end of 1850, he contracted tuberculosis, and he died of it in 1856.The plot for his grave had been reserved but, when the gravedigger set to work, it was found that an outcrop of solid Jurassic limestone lay just below ground level and explosives had to be used for excavation. This may have been a last jest by the noted geologist, reminiscent of Richard Whatley’s Elegy intended for Professor Buckland written in 1820:

Where shall we our great Professor inter
That in peace may rest his bones?
If we hew him a rocky sepulchre
He’ll rise and break the stones
And examine each stratum that lies around
For he’s quite in his element underground

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