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Memoir of Sir Andrew Crombie Ramsay
Chapter VI - The School of Mines and Museum, Jermyn Street


The scheme which De la Beche had so patiently worked at for some twenty years was now at last brought to its consummation. He had succeeded in inducing the Government to build a spacious edifice, extending from Piccadilly to Jermyn Street, which was to be entirely devoted to the purposes of Geology and its allied sciences. The main portion of the building was arranged for the display of specimens of minerals, rocks, and fossils, especially to illustrate the geological formations and mineral products of the British Isles. A large series of admirable specimens had been obtained from the mines of Cornwall and Devon, showing the characters of metalliferous veins and their accompaniments. Another series represented various mineral substances employed in manufactures or arts, with examples of their successive stages of treatment from the raw material to the finished article. A third series consisted of various stones employed in building or for decorative purposes. There were likewise numerous specimens of mining tools and machinery and models of mines and pit-workings. In every way that could be devised the contents were so chosen and arranged as to justify the name given to the building, 'The Museum of Practical Geology.' The old collections at Craig's Court not only found now a worthier domicile, but they were augmented by many specimens, which, for want of room, could not previously be exhibited.

But in keeping the practical application of geology before the eyes of the public, the claims of pure science were not lost sight of or held in the background. A fine assemblage of fossils which the Geological Survey had gradually been amassing was now arranged in due stratigraphical order. The visitor in walking round the galleries had before him the characteristic plants and animals of each great period of geological time, all properly named and grouped. He could thus, text-book in hand, study the fauna and flora of any particular geological period with a fulness and ease never before attainable. Geological maps of different parts of Britain were suspended for reference. Every effort was thus made to ensure that for purposes of serious study the Museum should be as useful as possible. By this combination of the systematic and the practical it was believed that an important step was taken in the development of geological science.

But the Jermyn Street Museum only carried out more fully and with ampler space what had been already attempted in the more restricted quarters of Craig's Court. Though the giving of lectures in connection with the Museum had been sanctioned as far back as 1839, the want of proper accommodation had prevented this design from ever being put into execution. But there was now the possibility of better things, and the great new departure in the organisation was the creation of a special teaching staff and the establishment of a definite curriculum of scientific training. Other countries had long had their schools of mines, yet Britain, with its enormous mineral wealth, then yielding twenty-four millions of pounds annually, had never possessed such an establishment. It was known that vast sums of money had been wasted in fruitless search for minerals, where a knowledge of geology would have shown that such minerals did not exist. It was admitted that science, if consulted in such cases, could direct the search for minerals in new localities, and aid in the proper and economical working of those already known. Many representations had been made to the ruling authorities of the country, urging the great need of scientific instruction in all branches of science capable of assisting in the development of the mineral industries of Britain. But it was not until the early summer of 1851 that the idea was finally launched into practical accomplishment.

The claims of De la Beche as the originator and the life and spirit of this comprehensive scheme were never more forcibly urged than by Murchison when, four years later, the Geological Society awarded its Wollaston Medal to the Director-General of the Geological Survey. 'Then arose,' he said, 'and very much after the design of the accomplished Director himself, that well-adapted edifice in Jermyn Street, which, to the imperishable credit of its author, stands forth as the first palace ever raised from the ground in Britain which is entirely devoted to the advancement of science! ... It is our bounden duty [as members of the Geological Society] to cleave closely to our offspring, Her Majesty's Geological Museum - nay more, to use our most strenuous endeavours to have it maintained by the British Government in that lofty position to which it has been raised. We must, in short, not only hold firmly to, but act upon the faith which is in us, and see that an establishment like this, though it naturally branches off into highly useful and collateral subjects of art, be never rendered subsidiary to them, but be permanently and independently sustained on its own solid basis of pure science. This, our view, will also be taken, I feel confident, by every enlightened statesman who may be placed in a station to provide for the future well-being of the admirable Museum, founded and completed by our Wollaston Medallist." The 12th May was fixed for the formal opening of the Museum by Prince Albert. Ramsay thus chronicles the events of the day: ' Over [to the Museum] soon, wound up all I had to do, and then prepared for our opening. Crowds began to assemble about half-past eleven. I helped to receive below. By and by the Prince came. We of the Museum, some of the ministers, etc., sundry Lords once of the Woods, the Bishop of Oxford, some of the geologists, etc., followed to the vacant chair. Sir H. read an address, the Prince read a reply. Then we all walked round, Sir H. leading, and each officer explaining his own department. And it was over.

'A terrible damper occurred which we kept from Sir H. Faraday told Hunt just before the Prince came that poor old Mr. Richard Phillips had died yesterday. It was a shock to me. Strange that he should have died just at the opening of the Museum. I find myself unconsciously repeating his jokes. We shall see him no more toddling about with a joke for every one.'

As finally adjusted, the subjects to be taught at the newly-instituted ' Government School of Mines, and of Science applied to the Arts,' and the officers by whom the courses of instruction were to be given, were as follows :—

President— Sir Henry T. De la Beche, C.B., F.R.S.
Chemistry, applied to the Arts and Agriculture—Lyon Playfair, Ph.D., F.R.S.
Natural History, applied to Geology and the Arts—Edward Horbes, F.R.S.
Mechanical Science, with its Applications to Mining—Robert Hunt, Keeper of Mining Records.
Metallurgy, with its Special Applications—John Percy, M.D., F.R.S.
Geology, and its Practical Applications—A. C. Ramsay, F.R.S.
Mining and Mineralogy—Warington W. Smyth, M.A., F.G.S.

His acceptance of the lectureship of geology in this institution rendered it necessary that Ramsay should vacate his chair at University College. On the 15th June he sent in his formal letter of resignation. There was a disposition on the part of some of the College authorities not to continue the professorship after he should give it up, but to send the students to him at the School of Mines. He himself, however, was adverse to this proposal, and the idea was abandoned. The teachers of the School did not aspire to be called ' Professors,' and Smyth used almost angrily to resent the appellation. But Ramsay having for four years worn the gown in a chartered college, the name of Professor continued to be given to him, in accordance with the northern proverb, ' Once a bailie, aye a bailie.'

The preparation of lectures for the new school was a much less arduous task than that which presented itself to him four years before. The course he had given at University College would suffice for his purpose. He had not written out his lectures, but had only made full notes, and these he used to revise frequently, so as to bring them abreast of the onward march of geology. This task had to be accomplished before the beginning of the next year. But it was not one which pressed heavily on him, even though it included the preparation of a special introductory lecture designed for the purposes of the School of Mines.


Warington H Smyth

Ramsay had thus ample time for inspecting duty in the field during the summer and autumn. Much of the earlier part of the season was spent in the Midlands looking over the ground mapped by or assigned to Jukes, H. H. Howell, and E. Hull. The two latter geologists were recent additions to the staffj and he trained them for their work. Never was there a more delightful field-instructor than he. Full of enthusiasm for the work, quick of eye to detect fragments of evidence, and swift to perceive their importance for purposes of mapping, he carried the beginner on with him, and imbued him with some share of his own ardent and buoyant nature. Laziness and indifference were in his eyes such crimes that indulgence in them marked a man out for his wrathful indignation, and even for ultimate dismissal from the service. He would take infinite pains to make any method of procedure clear, and was long-suffering and tender where he saw that the difficulties of the learner arose from no want of earnest effort to comprehend. But woe to the luckless wight who showed stupidity, inattention, or carelessness! Ramsay's eye would flash, his hand would whisk the tips of the curls on his head, he would seize the map and rush ahead, calling on the defaulter to come on and look. And he would keep up this offended tone until he felt that his pupil had at last been made to feel his delinquency. Then some snatch of a song or line of an old ballad or fragment from Shakespeare, appropriate to some phase of the incident, would come into his head, and instantly it would be on his lips with probably a hearty laugh, that showed how entirely the cloud had passed away. If a man had any geological faculty in him, it was impossible that it should not be stimulated and educated under such a teacher. And if, unhappily, there was no such faculty, Ramsay soon discovered the defect, and after full trial the recruit was advised to seek other fields of exertion.

The inspecting duty in the Midland region brought Ramsay into close familiarity with a type of English scenery which contrasted strongly with what, during his Survey life, he had been chiefly used to in Wales. Thus he writes: '19th July.—Up into that fine wild part of old England by Cannock Chase. It truly gives an idea of what much of England must have been in the days of Robin Hood—wild, undulating, unenclosed ground, covered with heath and bracken, and here and there sprinkled with oaks, birches, and alders. In the woods and on the hillsides you may see the wild deer trooping along, while now and then you raise a lazy heron, or the whirring grouse and black game.'

'23rd.—Out to Maxstoke Priory, etc. [Warwickshire], tracing on Howell's fault. What a noble place that has been, with its piles of building, its great cathedral-like church, and its perfectly-built encircling close walls of smoothed stones with buttress and sloping copings! I was charmed and grieved at the sight of the stately ruins ; scarcely anything remaining but part of the great church-tower, the gateway, some of the smaller buildings, now a farm-house, and these beautiful walls. To-night I heard the Shakespearian word "pudder" used for the first time in conversation. Old Mr. Brown of the Colesleys said, "It will be a fine day to-morrow, if the thunder does not pudder up," pronouncing the dd as th. It tells a singular story to see many of the old farms surrounded by moats in these parts.'

The weather during part of the time in Derbyshire was excessively warm, and made field-work somewhat trying, as the following characteristic letter will show :—

Ashbourne, Derbyshire, 30th June 1851.

My dear Salter—Where you may be I know not, whether above or below ground, recent or fossil. . . . Here we are burned up with fervent heat, and our souls are melted within us. Ginger-beer o' days is the only drink, and we dine at twelve o'clock at night with bitter beer and soda-water. Our noses are flames of fire, and our lips breathe smoke as a furnace. Oh for the dim cellars of the Museum, and a pint of cool stout with an oyster! Then should our throats be opened, and our lungs sing aloud like a game-cock. Hip-hip-hurrah for Lord.

So, who is not quite so bad as he's ugly. With a shout for Sir Henry, the Gov'nor, and a prayer that his legs may grow stouter; Stout as the legs of strong Samson, who bore off the gates of a city, Easy as Salter would carry a trayful of shells oolitic. Up the high gallery - stairs, where calamites ever reposing, Rest in their timber-glass tombs, delighting the eyes of the public ; Telling a tale of past epochs, a tale of the forests primeval, When mighty batrachians crawled o'er the mud that encircled their rootlets, And the convex Productus clung by byssus to stem and to stump, sir ; Like to the oysters that stick to the mangroves afar by the Ouorra.—Ouoth

Andw. C. Ramsay.

The approaching completion of all the work in North Wales, and especially the recent surveys in Anglesey, where some of the Director-General's mapping had been revised and modified by his subordinates, made De la Beche desirous of consulting Ramsay on the ground relative to these changes. Accordingly, he asked his lieutentant to meet him at Holyhead on his return from Ireland. The diary thus records the meeting :—

'24th September.—Got to Holyhead at half-past six, and found Sir Henry perfectly jolly, but very feeble on his legs. We spent an exceedingly pleasant evening together, talking on all sorts of subjects most unreservedly ; I felt quite filial towards him.

'25th.—Wet day. First we had a spread of the map, with which he was hugely delighted, especially about the Permian story. Then I wrote sixteen letters, and then we had a little walk before dinner. He looked quite feeble, and like an old man in his walk. It quite grieved me to see him, and I felt my affection growing stronger for him as we walked along, he leaning heavily on my arm, and using a stout stick besides. In the evening we were again very confidential. He talked about his daughters, their abilities, Kendall, and all his past life.

'26th.—After breakfast, started in a fly and pair for Amlwch, round about by Cemmaes, etc. He yielded the faults I claimed, and also that the altered rocks were the same as those on the west side of the island. We got to Amlwch by five, and took up our quarters at the "Dinorbin Arms." After dinner he talked of his old friends and acquaintances : Scott, Byron, Madame De Stael, etc. etc., all of whom he knew more or less.

'27th.—Out in a car seeing the gneiss, etc., near the smaller patch of granite. That point I yielded. They are gneiss, and not granite. He was very feeble, and could scarcely, with the help of my arm, crawl along the hillsides, when for a little we put up the car at a farm and walked. But there was a sort of childish good-humour about him that touched me, and I felt as fond of him as I ever did, before he began to get so dodgy with all of us. We spent a most jolly evening together again, he being full of jokes, and making all the servants laugh at his repetitions and kindly talk to them.

'One thing he said to-day amused me much. We were sitting on the sea-beach, eating mutton sandwiches, and watching the action of the waves on the pebbles, when Sir H. said: " I'll tell you what the old gentleman is saying; he's saying: ' Only give me plenty of time,' ha ! ha! ha! "

'28th.— Left Amlwch after breakfast in a large car and pair. Beautiful day. Lunched at Pentraith. Sir H. in a sort of happy, amiable, kindly vein all day. We put up at the "George," Menai Bridge. While I am writing he is reading the Bible and commenting on the Flood and other things in what he calls "that funny story." The house being full, we are obliged to take to a double-bedded room that opens directly into the road or yard. Sat latterly in the coffee-room, an English chatterbox, an Indian-looking dragoon, a sensible German, and another man being our fellows. We amused each other pronouncing difficult words for the others to imitate. My Llanfairpwllgwyngyll puzzled all of them.

'29th.—Sir H. taken suddenly worse during the night with English cholera, or something like it. He was so bad that by and by he got alarmed, and I jumped out of bed, got a car, drove to Bangor, roused Mr. Charles, the surgeon, expounded the case, and fetched him out with the needful medicines. Miss Roberts in a dreadful way about the bed room we were in. I brought in Mr. Charles, and Sir H. talked and made him laugh so about what he had eaten and how he felt. . . . The doctor gave him a dose, which almost on the instant put all right.

'I read Sir Roger de Coverley, and thought how like the two knights are to each other in many points of character, such as their jollity and harmless humours.

'Between four and six I crossed to Anglesey by the ferry, and saw that old affair of Selwyn's where the Cambrians are supposed to lie unconformably on the older schists. There is every appearance of a fault there, for there is a good 9-inch quartz-lode between them.

'30th.—Sir H. quite well and jolly this morning. He vowed that I was his guest here, and that I must not pay any share in the bill, because I would not have stayed had it not been for his illness, so I took an opportunity of slipping into the bar and paying my shot unknown to him.'

There were still points of detail and some questions of interpretation of geological structure to be settled in the area mapped by Ramsay and Selwyn in North Wales. Selwyn had gone back to Dolgelli to look into these, and Ramsay joined him there.

'11th October.—Held a council with Selwyn on the Shropshire sheets, etc. His work there and here is the perfection of beauty.

'21st.—Up in a car as far as the eighth milestone on the Trawsfynydd road ; then across the country to Bwlch-drws-Ardudwy. What a magnificent scene ! Had a rough climb over Rhinog fach. Let any one who wishes to be convinced of the theory of stratification with subsequent disturbance of beds go there. Their bare and unbroken continuity from top to bottom of the mountains on either side of that savage pass is the grandest sight in Wales.

'22th.-—Up to Drws-y-nant by the coach, and then across the hills behind by Dolnallt, Robell fawr, and Benglog. Selwyn made out all his points. How he fights with a bit of ground till he makes it all clear! Truly an admirable workman !

'3rd November.—Made some good glacial observations, especially at Capel Curig. Selwyn's semi-scepticism begins to melt.'

These Welsh peregrinations did not pass without including sundry detours to the rectory of Llanfair-ynghornwy. At last, on the 15th November, on a renewed visit to that remote spot, Ramsay and Miss Louisa Williams were engaged. Among the congratulatory letters which he received regarding this momentous and happy event in his life he carefully preserved that which came to him from his dear old chief. It ran as follows :—

London, 18th November 1851.

My dear Ramsay—Yours of yesterday I have just received in time to say, may you be as happy as I wish you, and may your intended wife value your right sterling honest self as I do. If she does this last, you will be sure of the first. May God prosper you in all ways.—Your ever sincere H. T. De la Beche.

Ramsay's yearning for a quiet home, with a congenial spirit upon whom he could pour out the full flow of his affectionate nature, was now about to be realised at last. A quotation from his letter to Mrs. Cookman, one of the Dolaucothi family, will best describe how he came to make his choice, and what he himself thought of it:

'From the first setting of my foot in Wales I was a doomed man. I was fated not to escape from it free. Only think of it ! I was done for m the last remaining corner of Wales, where my geological work was to be done, and just about the completion of that work, too. It was in the far north-west corner of Anglesey that I tumbled in head over heels, and was enchained by a maid of Cymru, as thoroughly Welsh as you are, for she speaks, reads, and readily translates Welsh, and, like all Welsh folk, is desperately fond of her country and people. ... I made their acquaintance accidentally when on a visit to Mr. and Mrs. Fitzgerald of Mapperton (Somersetshire) at Beaumaris. Mrs. Williams asked me to call if I came their way, which I did. I was staying at a bit of a public-house some miles off. Being hospitable folk, they asked me to leave these comfortless quarters and stay with them. I did so ; have been back sundry times since, and behold the result!—a result that considerably surprised both the young lady and myself, but principally the former, for, as is befitting in such cases, I was slain long before she knew it. You ask for a description. Do you suppose I am to be trusted with one? I half suspect not. I'll give you a very little, however, and you can believe as much of it as you like.

'First, then, she is not what you would call pretty, but she is sufficiently pretty to please me. Age about your own, perhaps a trifle younger. She can scarcely be called musical, albeit very fond of it. I mean, she is not much of a player, and but a poor singer, mid she knows it. But what of these things? I can vouch for her heart and mind. I have met with few girls so well read, and with none so witty. Her love of knowledge is so great, and her memory about ten times as big as mine, that I do consider myself a lucky fellow to have caught a wife that takes an interest :n all the pursuits that most interest me, and who did so long before I knew her. But she is not a blue. It takes a time to find it out. Then she is so full of mirth and humour, keeping us all laughing. I was always fond of laughing, you know. What more can I say? Her family can't understand how it is possible to live without her, and all the neighbouring poor will miss her almost daily visits.

'The marriage takes place in June, and if the French and Austrians only let the poor Switzers alone, I hope to carry her up the Rhine to Basle, across to Inierlaken, thence over by the Jungfrau to the valley of the Rhone, down to Martigny, round Mont Blanc, and down the Arve to Geneva; not galloping, but taking it leisurely, and staying at the pleasantest places for a few days, as the humour seizes us.'

Returning to London towards the end of the year, Ramsay resumed his old place and his old duties.

But everything seemed gilded now by the brightness that had at last risen upon his domestic prospects. He opened his course of geological instruction with an Introductory Lecture ' On the Science of Geology and its Applications.' The course began on the 6th January, and consisted of thirty lectures, given on Tuesday and Friday. To make the Museum and its contents more widely known, and to diffuse a taste for science among the people, evening lectures to working men were organised as part of the educational work of the Jermyn Street establishment. Each of the six teachers of the school gave a single evening lecture, so that the course consisted of six lectures, tickets being only obtainable by those who could show that they were truly artisans, and a registration fee of sixpence being charged for the course. Afterwards each teacher gave a course of six lectures. The instruction thus afforded, and still continued up to the present time, has been eminently popular among the class for which it was designed, large crowds sometimes assembling in front of the Museum door at the hour when the tickets for some specially attractive series of lectures are given out. In that first winter of 1851-52 Ramsay chose as his subject 'The Utilit} of Geological Maps.' So much were the lectures appreciated by the working men that they were repeated later in the spring.

A few jottings from Ramsay's diary of this period are here Inserted. Of the meetings of the Geological Society he writes :-—

'20th February (1852). — Geological Society Anniversary, Willis's Rooms. President [W. Hopkins] pretty well supported — Goulbourne, Sir C. Lemon, Pusey, Sir H., Lyell, Murchison, etc. I observe our body annually creeps higher and higher up the table. We are now next the bigger wigs.

'25th.—Good scrimmage between Sedgwick and Murchison on the Lower Silurian and Cambrian question. It was not an enlivening spectacle. Sedgwick used very hard words. Murchison made a spirited and dignified reply. He appealed to me, and I aided in a speech giving a history of the survey of Wales.

'24th March.—Logan's paper [On the Footprints occurring in the Potsdam Sandstone of Canada and Owen's Description of the Impressions and Footprints of the Protichnites from the Potsdam Sandstone of Canada] passed off well. Murchison made what Sedgwick called a speech characterised by a sort of bacchanalian joy at the tracks turning out not to be tortoise tracks, and Sedgwick himself rejoiced that the old resting-place of' his mind was not disturbed by such a terrible innovation. He did not like to be too much disturbed. Lyell was disappointed, he said; then Forbes followed, and Owen rebuked them in his reply for entertaining any other feeling than that of joy at an error being corrected, and a scientific truth partly elucidated. Mantell proposed that they were the tracks of great trilobites, but no one seconded him, or rather every one dissented, Burmeister's paper having gone so far to prove that trilobites had soft membranaceous appendages and no true feet.'

One entry regarding the Royal Institution Friday evenings may be quoted : ' 5th March.—I leard Dr. Mantell give a most amusing lecture on the Iguanodon and other Wealden reptiles. It was so clever and witty, that throughout it was greeted with rounds of applause. His raps at Owen through that Quarterly article were very characteristic.'

The field-work done by the Local Director this summer included the inspection of the mapping of Worcestershire and adjoining areas. He in particular traced the boundaries of the Permian breccias between the Bromsgrove Lickey and the Clent Hills, and had his curiosity kindled by the extraordinary character of these rocks. At intervals he renewed his study of them during the next few years, and came to the conclusion that they proved Lhe existence of Palaeozoic glaciers—an announcement which he made at the Liverpool meeting of the British Association in 1854.

The marriage of Professor Ramsay and Miss Louisa Williams took place at Llanfairynghornwy on the 20th July, and two days later he found himself for the first time in his life in a foreign country. Reaching Ostend, the newly-married pair made their way slowly through Belgium to Cologne, up the Rhine to Basle, where they called on Schonbein and supped with Peter Merian, thence to Zurich, and so into the Oberland and the western Alps. For the first time Ramsay now beheld true mountains and actual glaciers. At the first distant glimpse of the Alps he says that he ' opened his eyes so wide that he feared they never would close again.' What geologist can ever forget his first transports at such a sight! How Ramsay's eye caught up the points of special geological interest, while at the same time revelling in all the glories of mountain form, may be shown in a few citations from his diary.

'7th August.—As we crossed [the Lake of Lucerne] to Weggis, for the first time we saw a glacier far away towards the summit of the Uri Roth

Stock—I clearly saw the curved transverse crevasses and a distinct trainee of stones. It was an event in our lives. From Brunnen to Fluelen the contortions of the rocks exceeded anything I ever saw in the most intricate old rocks of Wales. Whole mountains were reversed, 4000 or 5000 feet high. I got a good notion of these contortions, but very little of the absolute character of the rocks, for I had no chance of touching them.

'11th.—Were rowed by two men and a woman to Interlaken. The scenery is so large and grand, the cliffs so great, the strikes, dips, and contortions of the great masses of strata so enormous and so grandly exposed, and the immense slopes of talus below, scarred with frequent torrents, give such overwhelming ideas of the incessant effects of atmospheric disintegration. England, Wales, and Scotland gave me no idea of it before. At Interlaken we saw descending from the Breithorn a genuine glacier, not very large apparently, for it was twelve miles off. We had a little geological scrimmage among the limestones.'

One of the most interesting features of this Swiss tour was an excursion which Ramsay, leaving his wife for a couple of days at the Grimsel, made with Dolfuss-Ausset to the Ober Aar glacier. He gave an account of this expedition in his article on Swiss and Welsh glaciers, published seven years later in Peaks, Passes, and Glaciers; but the original narrative in his diary contains a few personal details which may find a place here.

'17th August. -Went with the guide to find the " Pavilion " of M. Dolfuss. It was perched upon a rock some miles off. He is a great gaunt man, and stood on a rock with a blue bonnet on his head, and a veil wrapped round it. As soon as he knew who I was he hospitably asked me to dine with him, and immediately after proposed that I should join him in an excursion to the Ober Aar glacier, which, after a little hesitation, I acceded to. So we descended nearly to the lower end of the Unter Aar glacier, whence I despatched a note to Louisa, saying I had found an opportunity I had waited for for thirty-eight years, and that I could not be back till to-morrow. We then climbed up by a brook with four men, and long ere sunset reached the Ober Aar glacier. There we had coffee and supper and buffalo-skins, and by and by my messenger returned with a delightful note from Louisa. The men then cut grass and made a bed in the windowless hut. We spread our buffalo-skins upon it, had a glass of hot brandy and water, put a pipe in our cheeks, and speedily fell asleep as jolly as sand-boys.

'19th.—Awoke early, long before daylight, a little damp and sore in the bones. At half-past three M. Dolfuss roused himself and blew a blast on his horn, whereupon all the men got up and lighted two fires, one in the stove indoors, and the other on a flat stone outside. It was a glorious morning; I thought I had never seen stars before. Venus seemed to swim in the heavens, a ball of light, and not as if a hole had been punctured in a bluish covering through which the light shone. It was glorious, too, to watch the light gradually growing on the snowy peaks of Oberaarhorn and the other peaks that enclosed and nursed the glacier. At a quarter to five we started, and were soon on the ice, five men carrying the burdens. At first we were in groups where the ice was solid and the crevasses distinct. These required some careful dodging, though there never was any real danger.

By and by, as we got higher into the regions where snow had lately fallen, it was needful to be more cautious. We saw three chamois. We then walked in a row, following carefully in each other's footsteps, the foremost man sounding the snow with his pole. About half-past ten or eleven we reached the snow-shed where the glacier descends in the other direction into the valley of Viesch. Then we climbed up on a flat rock whence Monte Rosa, Mont Cervin, and the whole of the magnificent panorama of the Alps burst upon me. The Finsteraarhorn was close at hand, towering above us in black and white majesty. On the other side were all the mountains that bound the valley of the Grimsel, partly hidden by white clouds, through which the peaks rose as islands. The whole looked more glorious than I can describe. About one o'clock we began to descend. On the Grimsel side it was very rough and steep. [At last from a point 600 or 800 feet above the hotel] M. Dolfuss blew his horn, and the men gave a yoodle. Met Louisa on the top of a roche moutonnde opposite the inn. Then came M. Dolfuss, looking tall and rough. We sat together at dinner, and were exceedingly merry. M. Dolfuss seemed a great favourite with the landlord and all his people, and his gaunt yet stately appearance at table created quite a sensation.'

At Turtmann they were delighted to fall in with Von Buch and Merian, who were on their way to Monte Rosa, and would fain have persuaded Ramsay to accompany them. But he had promised to be back at his Survey post by a particular date, and so he reluctantly parted with them, went round by Chamouni, had a scramble on the Mer de Glace, and by the 2nd September was once more in London.

De la Beche received him with the exclamation, ' Oh, you have come back to the very day; I quite thought you would have taken another week !'

Apart from the general stimulus which a first visit to the Alps gives to a geologist's appreciation of his science, in Ramsay's case a special influence was exerted by the snowfields and glaciers. For the last four years, as we have seen, he had been getting increasingly interested in the various problems presented by the glaciation of Wales. But he had never before actually seen a glacier. The sight of the Swiss glaciers, therefore, quickened his desire to renew the study of the Welsh phenomena, and sent him back with a far more vivid conception of what the conditions must have been in the Ice Age among the hills and valleys of this country. Robert Chambers, to whom, as already remarked, may be assigned a large share in first directing Ramsay's attention to the relics of old glaciers in Britain, received a letter from him soon after he returned from his continental tour, giving some account of what he had seen. In his reply Chambers says: 'I am much gratified in hearing from you at all, and particularly so on account of the late tendency of your studies. In visiting the Alps, and looking at what ice now is doing, you have taken the first step required for the study of ancient glacial action. I could have wished you to take the second (as I consider it) in a trip to Scandinavia. Still, even without that, you may be tolerably prepared for the consideration of the corresponding phenomena in Wales. I have read the abstract of your paper in the G. Proceedingsand am really much gratified by the progress you have made in this curious investigation. Your observations on the drift on the flanks of Carnedd Llewelyn and Carnedd Dafydd are exceedingly interesting, and indeed the whole article is one calculated greatly to advance the question.' There can be little doubt that this first trip to Switzerland finally fixed the bent of Ramsay's mind in all his later geological work. Though still busy with the many problems presented by the structure of the older rocks, these no longer absorbed his attention, nor exercised that fascination which they had hitherto done. He now threw himself more and more into the study of the origin of the superficial contours of the land, and among the various agents by which these contours had been moulded and modified, he specially devoted himself to the investigation of the work of ice. Though the bold generalisations of Agassiz in regard to the former glaciation of Britain had been published twelve years before, they had met with but small acceptance among the geologists of Britain. J. D. Forbes, Buckland, Darwin, Charles Maclaren, and Robert Chambers had indeed traced the relics of vanished glaciers in various mountain groups of Scotland, the Lake District, and Wales. But a broader treatment of the subject was needed, and among those who led the way to this more comprehensive investigation, and who made the Glacial Period one of the most absorbingly interesting of all the geological ages, a foremost place must always be assigned to Sir Andrew Ramsay.

In the course of preparing for the engraver the various sheets of the map of North Wales, and the Horizontal Sections across the same region, a number of difficulties presented themselves. In an area of some complication, and where the survey had been the work of several geologists, it was hardly possible that it should be otherwise. So that portions of the ground required to be revisited, sometimes more than once, and the several surveyors had to meet and discuss the discrepancies or disputed points on the spot. Much anxious work of this nature occupied the autumn of 1852. Ramsay took his young wife to Ffestiniog, and from that centre proceeded to clear off all the remaining difficulties up to the Snowclon ground in the north, and Arenig on the east. Whilst there he was joined by five students from the School of Mines, who came for some initiation into the mysteries of geological surveying. They included W. T. Blanford, who afterwards rose to distinction in the Geological Survey of India, and is now an active member of the Royal, Geological, Zoological, and Geographical Societies of London; the late H. F. Blanford, well known for his able contributions to Indian Meteorology; and H. Bauerman, who afterwards became one of the staff of the Geological Survey of Great Britain.

This Welsh work of completion and revision took longer than had been anticipated. At the close of 1852 it was not finished. Selwyn left the Survey at the end of July in that year to take charge of the Geological Survey of Victoria, so that the task of getting the Welsh maps ready for the engraver devolved mainly on Ramsay himself, with the powerful assistance of W. T. Aveline. The Director-Generar was waxing more and more impatient. 'More (!!!) examinations in North Wales !' he exclaimed to Ramsay ; 'the very sound of such matters sets me adrift.' He wished to get rid of Wales, and to have the satisfaction of pushing on the Survey over England. As nothing delighted him more than to be able to announce a large area of square miles as surveyed in a year, so was he correspondingly chagrined that this prolonged detention of some of the most active members of the staff in Wales should seriously reduce the mileage that could be reported. Much of the summer of 1853 was still required for completing details in some of the Welsh ground, and both Ramsay and Aveline worked hard, sometimes together, but more generally apart. Frequent letters passed between them when they were separate, for Ramsay had set his heart on getting North Wales satisfactorily completed. He had himself been engaged in the work, and felt his credit at stake till he saw the survey finished as fully and accurately as he could achieve. His views were well expressed in a letter to I)e la Beche, not only regarding North Wales, for which he was himself responsible, but with reference to South Wales, and to all the southwestern part of England which had been completed and published before he joined the staff, in a more rapid, less detailed style than had subsequently been gradually introduced, mainly by his own exertions. Writing in the autumn of 1853, when Sir Henry's patience was all but gone, he says (21st November): 'I cannot but think that when, by new lights shining out, omissions or errors are discovered, it is better to mend them, as soon as we know the way, than to leave them open to amateur carpers. It was anything but pleasant the other day to hear of errors and omissions in Mal-vernia, some of which by accidental visits I knew to be true. You have often spoken of going down to Devon and Cornwall with me to mend the lines there, and I heartily wish the Silurian lines in South Wales and May Hill were mended and brought into harmony with those in the north, by the now easy addition of the dividing line between Upper and Lower Silurian, following out what I did years ago at Builth.

'As these maps stand, their authority is in great part gone, and any one can point out their inconsistencies. I do not, however, even now dream of mending South Wales without special orders, since having been done by others, and before my time, I have no actual responsibility in the matter. When a personal responsibility to you and the public weighs upon me, I cannot rest till I have done my very best as long as I am allowed to do it.

To his colleague, Salter, he was still more outspoken about the defects of the maps of South Wales : 'When I joined the Survey in 1841, Sir Henry and Phillips did the mapping, and I took lessons and looked on admiringly. I have no doubt that almost all South Wales is bad, Silurian and all. There was no system in the work. I suspect my work at St. David's and Fishguard is pretty nearly the best of it. 1 even separated out the Cambrian, but it was not used. From Builth to Pembroke is a mull, Llandovery and all. Certain I am that Sir Henry had no ground for putting my Llandeilos above the Castell Crag Gwyddon rock. I had nothing to do with it. Sir Henry began to map it, and left it off unfinished. The whole is only about ten stages better than Devon and Cornwall."

Some of the maps and sheets of Horizontal Sections of North Wales having now been published, Ramsay took a useful step in the spring of 1853 by reading to the Geological Society a brief outline of the general succession of rocks and geologic al structure of the region, so far as these had been determined by the Survey. In this paper he passed over the contention of his colleague Selwyn, which, as we have seen (pp. 172, 192), was also his own original impression, that the Cambrian rocks of Anglesey are underlain by a far more ancient series of schists. He now published his belief that these schists are the metamorphosed equivalents of the Barmouth and Harlech grits, and the Llanberis and Penrhyn sandstones and slates—an opinion which he maintained to the last. The paper is interesting as the eailiest account of the successive groups in the older Palaeozoic rocks of North Wales, as finally worked out by the Geological Survey.

Among the incidents of the summer of 1853 the most notable in Ramsay's life was the birth of a daughter on the 3rd June at Beaumaris. It gratified him to think that in Wales, which had almost become his adopted country, and which, by the ties of marriage, had now grown doubly dear to him, his child should have been born.

An important departmental change this year affected the Geological Survey. Once again it was transferred to a new set of masters. The exchange arose in this wise. One of the consequences of the Great Exhibition was the impulse given to the recognition of the importance of Science in national progress. In 1853 a comprehensive scheme was carried out by Lord Aberdeen's Government, whereby a 'Department of Science and Art' was established under the charge of the Board of Trade, of which the President at that time was Mr. Cardwell. The control of the Geological Survey, the Museum of Practical Geology, and the School of Mines was transferred from the office of Woods to this new department. Three years later, that is in 1856, another change was made, whereby the Department of Science and Art was transferred to the Privy Council, and was administered by the Lord President of the Council, assisted by a member of the Privy Council, who is called the Vice-President of the Committee of Council on Education. This arrangement is still maintained.


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