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Geological pioneer

Wm Buckland

As geologist and science writer Nina Morgan discovered, William Buckland has entered the realm of 21st Century social networking. No fooling!

Geoscientist 20.05 June 2011

Call me old-fashioned, and despite the exhortations from this and seemingly all other magazines and Societies to be their friend or follow them, I have never been personally interested in cultivating Facebook friends, or sharing 140-character thoughts via Twitter, and still less in reading anyone else's. But this, it seems, is just one of the ways in which I differ from the Reverend William Buckland (1784-1856), first Reader in Geology at Oxford University, and a man as famous for scholarship as he was notorious for eccentricity.

While searching on Google for something else, I suddenly found myself staring at William Buckland's very own Twitter page ( Styling himself as “Rev. William Buckland, Reader in Geology at Oxford; Dean of Westminster; gastronome, with locations in Oxford and Westminster”, Buckland claims to be following 31 other twitterers, and to have 24 followers – including such luminaries such as Richard Owen and Charles Darwin – hanging on his every tweet.

On the day I stumbled across Buckland's page, he and one “Richard Owen” were engaged in a gastronomic discussion regarding the relative culinary merits of the pickled heart of a king versus those of a nautilus, a roast hedgehog and a crocodile. Just the sort of chatter you might expect to surround someone like Buckland, who had the stated ambition of eating his way through the entire animal kingdom.

But what really caught my eye was a tweet about Huxley's "famously illegible handwriting” - to which someone, presumably Buckland, has replied "Bah. Spoken by one who's never read one of my letters."

Now here is something I CAN identify with. It's a comment often made about me by my own correspondents.


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* Nina Morgan is a geologist and science writer based near Oxford.