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Bruce Yardley appointed Chief Geologist

Bruce Yardley (Leeds University) has been appointed Chief Geologist by The Radioactive Waste Management Directorate (RWMD) of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).

Chartership news

Chartership Officer Bill Gaskarth reports on a projected new logo for use by CGeols, advice on applications and company training schemes

Climate Change Statement Addendum

The Society has published an addendum to 'Climate Change: Evidence from the Geological Record' (November 2010) taking account of new research

Cracking up in Lincolnshire

Oliver Pritchard, Stephen Hallett, and Timothy Farewell consider the role of soil science in maintaining the British 'evolved road'

Critical metals

Kathryn Goodenough* on a Society-sponsored hunt for the rare metals that underpin new technologies

Déja vu all over again

As Nina Morgan Discovers, the debate over HS2 is nothing new...

Done proud

Ted Nield hails the new refurbished Council Room as evidence that the Society is growing up

Earth Science Week 2014

Fellows - renew, vote for Council, and volunteer for Earth Science Week 2014!  Also - who is honoured in the Society's Awards and Medals 2014.

Fookes celebrated

Peter Fookes (Imperial College, London) celebrated at Society event in honour of Engineering Group Working Parties and their reports

Geology - poor relation?

When are University Earth Science departments going to shed their outmoded obsession with maths, physics and chemistry?

Nancy Tupholme

Nancy Tupholme, Librarian of the Society and the Royal Society, has died, reports Wendy Cawthorne.

Power, splendour and high camp

Ted Nield reviews the refurbishment of the Council Room, Burlington House

The Sir Archibald Geikie Archive at Haslemere Educational Museum

You can help the Haslemere Educational Museum to identify subjects in Sir Archibald Geikie's amazing field notebook sketches, writes John Betterton.

Top bananas

Who are the top 100 UK practising scientists?  The Science Council knows...

Food for thought


Geologist and Science writer Nina Morgan contemplates an unusual menu

The son of a Wealthy merchant and distiller, and a keen collector of plants with a strong interest in geology, James Scott Bowerbank (1797 – 1877) accumulated a large collection of British fossils. He used these in his own studies in palaeobotany and sponges, but was also happy to make them available to other researchers. The ‘palaeontological soirées’ held at his home led to the formation of the London Clay Club, in which members devoted themselves to studying London Clay fossils, and making a complete list of the species. In 1847, in the tea-room at the Geological Society, Bowerbank proposed the formation of a society to publish undescribed British fossils. This became known as the Palaeontographical Society.

Image : Bust of Bowerbank by Peter Slater (1865, exhibited at the RA in 1866), Burlington House.

Amateurs, too, benefited from his generous nature. “From 1844-1864 Dr Bowerbank was in the habit of receiving once a week, at his residence in Park Street, and afterwards at Highbury Grove”, recalled an anonymous obituarist writing in the Geological Magazine. “On these occasions every youthful geological student found in him a willing instructor and a sincere and kind friend. The treasures of his Museum, the use of his microscopes, and his personal assistance were at the disposal of every one.”

The published fruits of Bowerbank’s studies included A History of Fossil Fruits and Seeds of the London Clay. With illustrations by James De Carle Sowerby, the book made a big impact in the scientific society of the day. “The author is entitled to great praise in undertaking the illustration of one of the most difficult and important departments of fossil botany” gushed a reviewer writing in Annals and Magazine of Natural History in 1840: “and we trust that he may be encouraged to continue his researches in a subject so replete with interest, and in the prosecution of which he has already displayed so much zeal and ability.”

The book also brought Bowerbank to the attention of a public with a taste for palaeontology. It even inspired a popular cartoon illustrating delicacies on offer at the ‘Dinotherium Dining Rooms’, located next to the’ Megatherium Mansion, the Daily House in London for Antediluvium Grub’. As well as 80,000,000 New Fossil Fruits, and sponge cake (Bowerbank was also a keen collector of fossil sponges), diners were offered choices such as Haunch of Mastodon and Real Fossil Turtle soup.

Although fossil food is no longer offered on any menu today, you can still feast your eyes on – or drink your coffee from – a copy of the original lithograph. The Science and Society Picture Library is just one of the outlets that sells copies of it. Their menu includes prints, postcards and greetings cards and coffee mugs – all at very reasonable prices. Just the thing to tempt the appetite.

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


Some early collectors and collections of fossil sponges represented in the Natural History Museum London, by Sarah Long, Paul Taylor, Steve Baker and John Cooper, published in 2003, in The Geological Curator, 7(10), pp. 353-362; The obituary of James Scott Bowerbank FRS FLS FGS President of the Palaeontographical Society, published in the Geological Magazine, Decade 2, vol 4, pp. 191-2; and information about the print that appears on the website Thanks also to Eric Robinson, for sending me a copy of the lithograph that inspired this vignette.
  • If the past is the key to your present interests, why not join the History of Geology Group (HOGG)? For more information and to read the latest HOGG newsletter, visit:, where the programme and abstracts from the Conference on Geological Collectors and Collecting are available as a pdf file free to download.