THE life of a professional man of science seldom
offers such variety of incident and interest as to justify more than a
brief record. In most cases a summary of his work and an estimate of its
value in the onward march of knowledge form for such a man the most
fitting memorial. Now and then, however, a leader has appeared, who, by
the fascination of his personality, or by the extent and importance of
his individual achievements, has exercised so marked an influence on his
contemporary fellow-workers, or on the general advancement of science,
that the desire naturally arises to know something more of him and of
his surroundings, than the mere list of his labours. One would fain
learn how he came to be drawn into the ranks of the soldiers of science,
and by what process of training or what stages of evolution he rose to
be a captain in those ranks. The story of his discoveries may some times
have had a vivid personal interest, and those who can best appreciate
the value of these discoveries would gladly know how they were made.
The subject of the present memoir stood in the
forefront of the Geology of his time,
and by the charm of his
genial nature, as well as by the enthusiasm of his
devotion to science, exercised a wide influence
among his contemporaries.
To that large circle of friends who knew him in his
prime, and to that yet wider public
which recognises how much it has profited by
his labours, some brief record of the life of Andrew
Crombie Ramsay will be welcome.
He was almost my earliest geological
friend, and for many years we were
bound together by the closest ties of
scientific work and of unbroken
friendship. It has been, therefore, a true labour of love to put
together this little memorial of him. As far as
the materials at my disposal would permit, I
have allowed his personal experiences to
be told in his own words. I have
tried to trace the gradual progress of his
development as a geologist, and to offer a
short summary of what seem to me to
have been the essential features of his contributions to his
favourite science. And I have sought,
though I fear with but imperfect success, to show
something of that bright, sunny
spirit which endeared him to all who came
within its influence.
Sir Andrew Ramsay joined the Geological
Survey when it was still in
its infancy, and he remained on its staff during
the whole of his active scientific career a period
of forty years. So entirely did he identify
himself with the aims and work of the Survey,
and so largely was he
instrumental in their development, that the chronicle of his life is in
great measure the record also of the progress of
that branch of the public service.
Recognising this intimate relation, I have
woven into my narrative such additional detail as might
perhaps serve to make the volume not only a
personal biography, but an outline of the history of the Geological
Survey of the United Kingdom.
Among those who have kindly
supplied me with letters or information I would
especially express my indebtedness to Lady Ramsay and
Sir Andrew Ramsay s nephew, Professor
William Ramsay, F.R.S., who have
furnished many family and personal details;
and to Mrs. Johnes and Lady
Hills-Johnes of Dolaucothy, who
have lent a large collection of letters. Old
colleagues on the Geological
Survey have likewise been helpful,
especially Lord Playfair, Mr.
W. T. Aveline, Mr. A.
R. C. Selwyn, Professor T. M Kenny
Hughes, Professor A. H. Green,
Mr. H. H. Howell, Mr. W.
Whitaker, Mr. F. W. Rudler, Mr.
A. Strahan, and the late Mr.
W. Topley. Mr. M. J. Salter has lent a
number of letters addressed to his father. To some of Sir Andrew s
foreign correspondents I am likewise under
obligation, particularly to Professor Zirkel, Professor Daubree,
Professor Riitimeyer, Professor Capellini,
and the family of Signor Sella. It has
seemed to me that additional interest
would be given to the biography by
the insertion not only of a likeness of its subject, but of
portraits of some of his more notable comrades. I
have accordingly added
likenesses of a dozen of his geological associates
whose names and work are well
known. These have been taken as far as
possible from early photographs, so as to picture
the men as they looked when they were actively
engaged with Ramsay in geological work.
But in some cases when no
early likeness was available, or
where the photographs had become too faded
for reproduction, later portraits have been
GEOLOGICAL SURVEY OFFICE, JERMYN STREET,
LONDON, 12th September 1894.