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William Hopkins and the shaping of Dynamical Geology: 1830–1860

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 January 2009

Crosbie Smith
Affiliation:
History of Science Unit, Physics Laboratory, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NR, U.K.

Extract

‘Hitherto want of accuracy and definiteness have often been brought as a charge against geology, and sometimes only with too much justice’, wrote Archibald Geikie in a review of Sir Roderick Murchison's Siluria (1867). ‘We seem now to be entering, however, upon a new era, when there will be infused into geological methods and speculation, some of the precision of the exact sciences’. Geikie's judgement echoed an appeal made some thirty years earlier by William Hopkins (1793–1866) that the science of geology needed to be ‘elevated’ from a level of ‘indeterminate generalities’ to a rank among the stricter physical sciences. This paper aims to analyse, in the context of broader trends favouring measurement and mathematics in British scientific practice, Hopkins' role in the promotion of dynamical geology as a major new complement to stratigraphical geology such that, for example, in the first edition of Geikie's Textbook of Geology (1882) the dynamical and stratigraphical components each filled 376 pages.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © British Society for the History of Science 1989

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References

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31 On the ‘gentlemanly specialists’ see Rudwick, , op. cit. (26), pp. 1727.Google Scholar

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41 Ibid., ii, pp. 294–295.

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46 Hopkins, William to Phillips, John, 20 01, 1837Google Scholar, Phillips correspondence, Oxford University Museum.

47 See Brush, Stephen G., ‘Nineteenth-century debates about the inside of the earth: solid, liquid or gas?’, Annals of Science, (1979), 36, pp. 225254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

48 A more extensive discussion appears in Smith, and Wise, , op. cit. (5), pp. 552578Google Scholar, where we discuss the context for William Thomson's age of the earth estimates. This analysis is fully co-authored.

49 Ibid., pp. 553; 557–559.

50 Ibid., pp. 573–578.

51 Hopkins, William, ‘Report on the geological theories of elevation and earthquakes’, BAAS Report, (1847), 17, pp. 3392Google Scholar; Hopkins, , op. cit. (2), pp. 230231.Google Scholar

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60 Ibid., pp. 60–62.

61 Ibid., pp. 63–64.

62 Ibid., p. 90.

63 Ibid., p. 91.

64 Whewell, William to Forbes, J. D., 14 07, 1831Google Scholar, published in Todhunter, Isaac, William Whewell, D. D., 2 vols, (London, 1876), ii, p. 121Google Scholar. See also Smith, , op. cit. (15), pp. 2528Google Scholar. For a good summary of Forbes' early career and values see Morrell, and Thackray, , op. cit. (4), pp. 430434.Google Scholar

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72 Hopkins, William, op. cit. (54), pp. 12Google Scholar. See also Hopkins, William, ‘On the motion of glaciers’, Transactions of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, (1849), 8, pp. 5074; 159169Google Scholar; ‘On the transport of erratic blocks’, Transactions of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, (1849), 8, pp. 220240.Google Scholar

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74 Ibid., pp. 2–7.

75 Ibid., p. 7.

76 Ibid., pp. 7–11.

77 Ibid., pp. 11–12.

78 Ibid., p. 16n.

79 Wheweil, William, ‘On glacier theories’, Philosophical Magazine, (1845), 26, pp. 171173, on p. 171.Google Scholar

80 Ibid., pp. 171–173.

81 Whewell, William, ‘Additional remarks on glacier theories’, Philosophical Magazine, (1845), 26, pp. 217220, on pp. 217218.Google Scholar

82 Ibid., pp. 219–220.

83 Hopkins, William, ‘Mr. Hopkins's reply to Dr. Whewell's remarks on glacier theories’, Philosophical Magazine, (1845), 26, pp. 334342, on p. 335.Google Scholar

84 Ibid., pp. 336–338.

85 Ibid., pp. 338–340. See ‘Account of an experiment on Stockholm pitch, confirming the viscous theory of glaciers. In a letter from Prof. Gordon of Glasgow, to Prof. J. D. Forbes of Edinburgh’, Philosophical Magazine, (1845), 26, pp. 206208.Google Scholar

86 Forbes, J. D., ‘Reply to Mr. Hopkins on the motion of glaciers; with reasons for avoiding further controversy’, Philosophical Magazine, (1845), 26, pp. 404418.Google Scholar

87 Ibid., pp. 405–406.

88 Ibid., pp. 406–407.

89 Ibid., p. 407.

90 Ibid., pp. 411; 414.

91 Hopkins, William, ‘Remarks on Professor Forbes's reply’, Philosophical Magazine, (1845), 26, pp. 593599, on p. 596.Google Scholar

92 See Wise, M. Norton, ‘The Maxwell literature and British dynamical theory’, Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences, (1982), 13, pp. 175205CrossRefGoogle Scholar; ‘The flow analogy to electricity and magnetism, part I: William Thomson's reformulation of action at a distance’, Archive for History of Exact Sciences, (1981), 25, pp. 1970, especially pp. 2132.Google Scholar

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94 Laudan, Rachel, From Mineralogy to Geology. The Foundations of a Science, 1650–1830, Chicago and London, 1987, especially pp. 17; 138141; 180181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

95 Ibid., pp. 5–6; 20–69.

96 Hopkins, , op. cit. (38), p. 425.Google Scholar

97 On Admiralty charting in the period see Friendly, , op. cit. (11), pp. 255266Google Scholar. Over his twenty-five years as Hydrographer, Beaufort and his survey teams produced almost 1500 new charts up to 1855.

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