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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...

Climate change

Charles LyellGeologist and science writer Nina Morgan speculates on the role of uniformitarianism in international relations

Geoscientist 22.09 October 2012

Charles Lyell’s Principles of Geology was arguably one of the most influential geology books ever written. First published in three volumes between 1830-1833, it ran to 12 editions, the last published posthumously. In his autobiography Charles Darwin described Lyell’s book as ‘of the highest service to me in many ways’ and the first volume served as Darwin’s ‘Desert Island’ book on the Beagle. But Lyell’s observational powers and keen sense of reasoning extended well beyond the realms of rocks and Earth processes. He also appeared to delight in amateur anthropology.

In A second visit to the United States of North America, Lyell recalls how, spurred on by a remark by a Boston resident that ‘We ought to be happier than the English, although we do not look so’ [Lyell’s italics], he was moved to speculate on the origins of national characteristics.

“I suspect,” Lyell wrote, “that the principal cause of the different aspect of the Anglo-Saxon race in England and America is the climate. During both our tours through the United States, my wife and I enjoyed excellent health. But, he notes, “we were told that, if we stayed a second year, we should feel less vigorous...”

The reason, he conjectures is the weather. “English travellers often ascribe the more delicate health of the inhabitants here [in the United States] to their in-door habits and want of exercise. But it is natural that they should shrink from exposing themselves to the severe frosts and long-continued snows of winter, and to the intense heat of the summer’s sun. An Englishman is usually recognised at once in a party, by a more robust look, and a greater clearness and ruddiness of complexion; and it is surprising how distinguishable he is even from persons born of English parents in the United States. It is also a curious fact, which seems generally admitted, that the native Anglo-Australians bear a considerable resemblance to the Anglo-Americans in look and manner of speaking, which is a mystery, for there is certainly in that case no analogy between the climates of the two countries.”

But, since the Anglo-Saxon ‘invasions’ of America and Australia are, relatively speaking, comparatively recent, perhaps uniformitarianism had not yet progressed as far in these regions. If that is the case, one wonders what Lyell might have written had he lived long enough to publish a 13th edition of his most famous work.


Sources for this vignette include: A second visit to the United States of North America, by Charles Lyell, published in two volumes by John Murray in 1849; and the chapter covering the voyage of the Beagle in Charles Darwin’s Autobiography.

  • 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.

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