Product has been added to the basket

Lyell Room Opening Ceremonies

May 16 2007

Lyell Centre, Lyell Collection and Lyell Room opening

Dr Richard Fortey FRS, Speech of Welcome, Lecture Theatre:

Dear Friends,

Welcome to the Geological Society of London. My name is Richard Fortey and I have the honour to be President in this, its Bicentenary Year.

Today is one of the most significant days in our crowded Bicentennial Calendar, because we are launching not one but two major Bicentenary Projects – the Lyell Centre, and the new Society website within which it sits.

The Lyell Centre is a virtual library. As well as dedicating this new online library resource to one of the Society's most influential fellows - Sir Charles Lyell - we are also coupling his name to an on-line library collection (consisting of the Society's major published output since its foundation) and a beautiful new reading room that forms its physical manifestation within our refurbished building. Lyell himself was a great innovator – and I hope that he would have approved of the Society’s latest initiative.

I shall have more to say about all these wonderful developments, and the people who made them possible, when we move on to open Lyell Room in about thirty minutes from now.

In the meantime I am delighted to hand over to distinguished historian of science, Professor Jim Secord of Cambridge University, who is going to tell us a little about Sir Charles Lyell, his life, work, and his reputation.

Professor Secord works at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science in Cambridge and is Director of the Darwin Correspondence Project. Winner of the Society's Sue Tyler Friedman Medal for his work on the history of Earth sciences, his main research interests are the social history of science since 1750, especially the life and Earth sciences and the history of science communication. His books include Controversy in Victorian Geology: The Cambrian-Silurian Dispute, and - a wonderful book which I had the privilege of reviewing - Victorian Sensation: The Extraordinary Publication, Reception and Secret Authorship of Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation.

Lords, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome, Professor Jim Secord.

Prof. Secord Speaks

Speech of thanks

Jim, thank you very much for that revealing talk about Sir Charles Lyell. I shall never look at his portrait and plaster bust in quite the same light again.

I now have the pleasure of inviting representatives of our sponsors to accompany me to the Lyell Room for its opening, and the inauguration of the Lyell Centre – the new virtual library on our new website.

Unfortunately it is physically not possible for everyone to come, so we have arranged for the event to be broadcast to you here in the lecture theatre. After the speeches, perhaps those of you who are remaining in here would be so good as to join us upstairs.

Lyell Room opening

My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen:

We stand here before something tangible: a room - a very beautiful room - which we have created from the former Library reception and office. Something like this is easy to recognise, because you can cut a ribbon and open the door, and there it is.

However, this room is really just the visible tip of a very large iceberg.

The Lyell Room, as it shall be known, is a working environment in which readers will be able to access our new virtual library, which we are calling the Lyell Centre; though those readers will not be alone in this, because the Centre is a learning resource available to everyone, anywhere in the world, from their own terminals, via the World Wide Web.

The Lyell Centre is an integral part of the Society's new website, which we are also launching tonight. Visitors to our site will now be able to access all the Society's major published work, books and journals, right back to our foundation: a collection featuring the full content of all our wholly owned journals, Special Publications and key book series. The system also allows much more penetrating searches of our library holdings – whose index is now completely online – even to the extent of having a geographic information system – an interface that allows readers to search the catalogue maps by geographical

Creating this powerful new resource has been made possible by the generosity of our Foundation sponsors BP and Shell – and, later in the year, the Lyell Collection will be made available free of charge to the Earth science community in less developed countries thanks to the support of Schlumberger.

I must record my thanks to BP, Shell and Schlumberger for their wonderful support during this process.

A massive undertaking like this does not take place overnight, and I must now pay tribute to all those who have helped to make it a reality over the past 18 months.

Needless to say, a huge amount of work has been done by our Executive Secretary, Edmund Nickless, and Director of Publishing, Neal Marriott, - assisted by the Senior Production Editor, Sarah Gibbs. Without their drive and enthusiasm, nothing would have been possible. Elsewhere among the Society's staff, the greatest burden has fallen upon our Data Manager, Nic Bilham, who, together with Kholilur Rahman, have project-managed the immensely complex task of building the new website.

Relaying to the Lecture Theatre...L-R: Mike Daly (BP Intl.Ltd.); Jim Secord (Cambridge); Bill Wright (Schlumberger); Karen Leadbitter OBE (Shell); Richard Fortey; Tony Hayward (CEO, BP Intl.); Kevin Perry (GSL, foregnd.); Henry Edmundson (Schlum.)The site itself was built by SOUK, the same company (under the name Broadband Communications) who built our previous site. I should also mention the journal hosting service provided by Stanford University's HighWire Press; the digitization of over a quarter of a million pages of published work by two companies SPI and DCL; ESRI for their input to the GIS-interface; and Peter Wigley, one of our Fellows, who deserves a special tribute of thanks.

Within the Library, two members of staff under the direction of the Chief Librarian Sheila Meredith and her assistant Wendy Cawthorne, have worked solidly to complete the digital catalogue – Nicola Best and Michael Willsher. Martina Dobrikova with the Map Librarian, Paul Johnson, have been responsible for inputting the map sheet catalogue data.

Now as we prepare to inaugurate the Lyell Room, the physical manifestation of this huge invisible body of work, I should mention the conservation architects Julian Harrap Partnership and in particular Bob Sandford; our building contractors Poultney Gallagher; and furniture designers Luke Hughes, who together have created what I think you will agree is a truly wonderful room fully worthy of its setting within Burlington House.

In a moment I shall hand over to Tony Hayward [CEO, BP] and Malcolm Brinded [Executive Director, Shell Exploration & Production], representing our two Foundation Sponsors. However, I should point out now that as soon as the Lyell Room is opened, you will be able to use it, and I would encourage you to do so. Members of staff from the Society are on hand to demonstrate how the new website and its Lyell Centre actually work. Please ask them questions and see for yourself.

When we began planning this bicentenary several years ago, we said that above all we wanted it to leave a lasting legacy. The Lyell Room, Lyell Collection and Lyell Centre embody that idea in the highest degree, and I am very proud to think that they have come about "on my watch".

Thank you.

The toast to Charles Lyell

Toast to Charles Lyell

It is said that in geology few if any names from our heroic age cast a longer shadow than Charles Lyell’s. It is in acknowledgement of this, that the Society he did so much to promote has chosen its Bicentenary to honour him in this way.

Charles Lyell, in the many editions of his seminal Principles of Geology, used his skill as a lawyer to argue THE case for a style of uniformitarianism that is perhaps now slightly out of fashion. We now accept that the world as a whole has evolved and that great events have punctuated long periods of comparative stasis.

This occasion rather embodies the new uniformitarianism; the Society and this grand building representing continuity and permanence, side by side with a new and profound change - represented by the Lyell Centre on our re-launched website. All the Society's published work – including all of Charles Lyell's, will henceforth be accessible to readers worldwide. 

I am sure that this is something of which Charles Lyell would have approved; it is certainly something of which I, his successor as President, approve most warmly.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you all – including those of you watching from the Lecture theatre…your turn is coming! - Charles Lyell.