Sir Archibald Geikie was
born at Edinburgh in 1835, the son of John Stuart Geikie, businessman,
and composer, and Isabella Thom. He married Alice Gabrielle Pignatel in
1871. His education was at Black's school, then Edinburgh High School
and he showed a great aptitude for study and his interest in science was
furthered in the direction of geology when he and his friends discovered
fossils at Burdiehouse quarries. Geikie was influenced by scientists
such as naturalist John Fleming, to whom he was introduced by his
father, and by the many books on geolgy which he consumed, most notably
Hugh Miller's Old Red Sandstone.
life began initially in banking, which he did not enjoy and 1851 saw his
a newspaper publication of his Three Weeks in Arran by a Young
Geologist, which led to an introduction to Hugh Miller. He also
became acquainted with publisher Alexander Macmillan, geologist James
David Forbes and Andrew Crombie Ramsay.
The banking career
abandoned, he matriculated at the University of Edinburgh in 1854 but
had to leave the following year for financial reasons. A recommendation
by both Miller and Ramsay to Sir Roderick Impey Murchison, newly
appointed head of the Geological Survey, secured Geikie a position there
as mapping assistant. The following years saw him make the acquaintance
of distinguished scientists such as Leonard Horner and Sir Charles Lyell.
His official work was
supplemented by research during his holiday time, travelling throught
the British Isles and Europe. 1867 saw him appointed director of the
newly created branch, the Scottish Geological Survey. When Murchison
founded the chair of geology in 1870 at the University of Edinburgh,
Geikie was his choice as professor and he was appointed the following
Geikie's field and
research work took him all over the British Isles and to many parts of
Europe. He successfully combined his duties to both posts as well as
devoting time to private research and writing. As well as his scientific
writings, Geikie wrote several well-known biographical and historical
books including Memoirs of Sir Roderick Impey Murchison (1875),
Andrew Crombie Ramsay (1895),
Edward Forbes (1861), and Founders of
Geology(1897). 1924 saw the publication
of his own autobiography.
He went on to succeed Sir
Andrew Crombie Ramsay as head of the Geological Survey of Great Britain
in 1881, which he held until his retiral in 1901. This saw him relocate
to London and take a more active role in many scientific societies.
Those relating to the Royal Society, he took particular interest in
after his retiral, serving as secretary and president.
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