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Portrait of Sir Henry Thomas De la Beche (1796-1854)

Henry Thomas De la Beche   

Portrait in oils of Henry Thomas De la Beche, by Henry William Pickersgill, 1847. (GSL/POR/5)

Provenance: Presented to the Society by Thomas George Bonney, 1885.

Elected a Member of the Geological Society on 6 June 1817 (no.426) and served on its Council between 1826-1828 and 1830-1852. Elected President of the Society, 1847-1849. Awarded the Wollaston Medal in 1855.

Henry Thomas De la Beche’s main geological work in the south west of England was the first in the world to be government supported and as a result he was appointed the first Director General of the Geological Survey of Great Britain on its formation in 1835.

De la Beche was a gifted artist, often illustrating his own geological papers or creating doodles and caricatures for his and others’ amusement.

'Awful changes’, a lithographed cartoon showing Professor Ichthyosaur lecturing, by Henry Thomas De la Beche, 1830. (LDGSL/905)

The cartoon poked fun at the outlandish concept put forward by others, such as Charles Lyell, that geological and biological history was cyclical and therefore extinct animals could return to the Earth.

  Awful changes 

Another portrait image of De la Beche can be found in our painting The British Association at Newcastle.