Archibald Geikie

Sir Archibald Geikie OM KCB PRS FRSE FRS (28 December 1835 – 10 November 1924), was a Scottish geologist and writer.[1][2]

Sir Archibald Geikie

Portrait of Archibald Geikie
Sir Archibald Geikie, by Wener & Son.
Born28 December 1835
Edinburgh, Scotland
Died10 November 1924 (aged 88)
Haslemere, England
AwardsMurchison Medal (1881)
Wollaston Medal (1895)
Royal Medal (1896)
Hayden Memorial Geological Award (1902)
Scientific career

Early life

Geikie was born in Edinburgh in 1835, the eldest son of Isabella Thom and her husband James Stuart Geikie, a musician and music critic. The elder brother of James Geikie, he was educated at Edinburgh High School and University of Edinburgh.[3]


In 1855 was appointed an assistant on the British Geological Survey. Wielding the pen with no less facility than the hammer, he inaugurated his long list of works with The Story of a Boulder; or, Gleanings from the Note-Book of a Geologist (1858). His ability at once attracted the notice of his chief, Sir Roderick Murchison, with whom he formed a lifelong friendship, and whose biographer he subsequently became.[4]

With Murchison some of his earliest work was done on the complicated regions of the schists of the Scottish Highlands; and the small geological map of Scotland published in 1862 was their joint work: a larger map was issued by Geikie in 1892. In 1863 he published an important essay "On the Phenomena of the Glacial Drift of Scotland", in Transactions of the Geological Society of Glasgow, in which the effects of ice action in that country were for the first time clearly and connectedly delineated.[4]

In 1865 Geikie's Scenery of Scotland (3rd edition, 1901) was published, which was, he claimed, the first attempt to elucidate in some detail the history of the topography of a country. In the same year he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.[5] At this time the Edinburgh school of geologists, prominent among them Sir Andrew Ramsay, with his Physical Geology and Geography of Great Britain were maintaining the supreme importance of denudation in the configuration of land surfaces, and particularly the erosion of valleys by the action of running water. Geikie's book, based on extensive personal knowledge of the country, was an able contribution to the doctrines of the Edinburgh school, of which he himself soon began to rank as one of the leaders.[4]

Geological Survey

Aerial view of canyons
The Grand Canyon, Arizona, at the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers

In 1867, when a separate branch of the Geological Survey was established for Scotland, he was appointed director. On the foundation of the Murchison professorship of geology and mineralogy at the University of Edinburgh in 1871, he became the first occupant of the chair.[4] He continued to hold these two appointments until 1881. In that year, he was awarded the Murchison Medal of the Geological Society of London[1] and he succeeded Sir Andrew Ramsey in the joint offices of Director-General of the Geological Survey of the United Kingdom and Director of the Museum of Practical Geology, London, from which he retired in February 1901. A feature of his tenure of office was the impetus given to microscopic petrography, a branch of geology to which he had devoted special study, by a splendid collection of thin sections of British rocks. Later he wrote two Survey Memoirs, The Geology of Central and Western Fife and Kinross (1900), and The Geology of Eastern Fife (1902).[4]

From the outset of his career, when he started to investigate the geology of Skye and other of the Western Isles, he took a keen interest in volcanic geology, and in 1871 he brought before the Geological Society of London an outline of the Paleogene (then termed Tertiary) volcanic history of Britain. Many difficult problems, however, remained to be solved. Here he was greatly aided by his extensive travels not only throughout Europe, but in western America. While the canyons of the Colorado River confirmed his long-standing views on erosion, the volcanic regions of Wyoming, Montana and Utah supplied him with valuable data in explanation of volcanic phenomena. The results of his further researches were given in an essay entitled "The History of Volcanic Action during the Tertiary Period in the British Isles," in Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (1888). His views on volcanic geology were delivered in his presidential addresses to the Geological Society of London in 1891 and 1892 and afterward embodied in his book The Ancient Volcanoes of Great Britain (1897). Other results of his travels are collected in Geological Sketches at Home and Abroad (1882).[4]


Geikie wrote a biography of Edward Forbes (with G Wilson), and biographies of his predecessors Sir Roderick Impey Murchison (two volumes, 1875) and Sir Andrew Crombie Ramsay (1895). His book Founders of Geology consists of the inaugural course of lectures (founded by Mrs George Huntington Williams) at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, delivered in 1897.[4]

In 1897 he issued a Geological Map of England and Wales, with Descriptive Notes. In 1898 he delivered the Romanes Lectures, which was published under the title of Types of Scenery and their Influence on Literature. The study of physical geography in Great Britain improved largely due to his efforts. Among his works on this subject is The Teaching of Geography (1887). His other books include Scottish Reminiscences (1904) and Landscape in History and other Essays (1905).[4] His Birds of Shakespeare was published in 1916.[6]

Honours and awards

Geikie was Foreign Secretary of the Royal Society from 1890 to 1894, Joint Secretary from 1903 to 1908 and elected President in 1909 and awarded their Royal Medal in 1896. He was President of the Geological Society of London in 1891 and 1892, and again in 1906 and 1907. He was also President of the British Association in 1892.[4]

A197, Geikie Gorge National Park, Western Australia, Fitzroy River, 2007
Geikie Gorge National Park, Fitzroy River, 2007

He received the honorary Doctor of Laws (LL.D) from the University of Glasgow in June 1901.[7]

He received a knighthood[8] in 1891, the Knight Commander of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath in 1907[9] and the Order of Merit in 1914.[10]

In 1905 he received the RSGS Livingstone Medal.

Dorsa Geikie, a wrinkle ridge system on the Moon, and the mineral geikielite, a magnesium-titanium oxide, are both named after him, as is Geikie Gorge in the Napier Range in the Kimberley Region of Western Australia.


He died at his home, "Shepherd's Down" in Haslemere, Surrey and is buried there in the village churchyard.[11]

He had married in 1871 Alice Gabrielle Anne Marie Pignatel, daughter of Eugene Pignatel of Lyons; they had a son Roderick (killed in early life) and three daughters.

Geikie Powell Walcott in Harpers Ferry 1897

Charles Doolittle Walcott, John Wesley Powell, and Sir Archibald Geikie on a geological field excursion to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, May 1897, following the George Huntington Williams Memorial Lectures delivered by Sir Archibald Geikie at Johns Hopkins University

American Geologists WVa 1897

Group photo taken during the aforementioned geological field excursion to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, May 1897. Sir Archibald Geikie is in the top row, second from the left, wearing a light-colored jacket.

Selected bibliography


  1. ^ a b "Geikie, Sir Archibald". Who's Who. Vol. 59. 1907. p. 667.
  2. ^ "GEIKIE, SIR ARCHIBALD (1835- )". The Encyclopaedia Britannica; A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature and General Information. XI (FRANCISCANS to GIBSON) (11th ed.). Cambridge, England: At the University Press. 1910. p. 552. Retrieved 7 February 2019 – via Internet Archive.
  3. ^ Oldroyd, David. "Geikie, Sir Archibald (1835-1924), geologist and historian". doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/33364. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Geikie, Sir Archibald" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 11 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 552–553.
  5. ^ "Library and Archive Catalogue". Royal Society. Retrieved 31 January 2011.
  6. ^ Geikie, Archibald (1916). The birds of Shakespeare,. Glasgow: J. Maclehose and Sons.
  7. ^ "Glasgow University jubilee". The Times (36481). London. 14 June 1901. p. 10.
  8. ^ "Osborne, July 30, 1891" (PDF). London Gazette. London: HMSO (26190): 4244. 7 August 1891. Retrieved 14 October 2008.
  9. ^ "Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood" (PDF). London Gazette. London: HMSO (28050): 5527. 13 August 1907. Retrieved 14 October 2008.
  10. ^ "The New Year's Honours. Five New Peers., Six Baronets: Forty Knights., Appointment To Order Of Merit" (40409). London: The Times. 1 January 1914. p. 9; col G.
  11. ^ Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0 902 198 84 X.

External links

Anthony Leonard Harris

Anthony Leonard Harris (born 1935) is a British geologist and former president of the Geological Society of London.

Archibald G. Brown

Archibald Geikie Brown (18 July 1844 – 2 April 1922) was a Calvinistic Baptist minister; a student, friend, and associate of Charles Spurgeon; and from 1908 to 1911, pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, the church earlier pastored by Spurgeon.

Barra Head Lighthouse

Barra Head Lighthouse on Barra Head identifies the southern entrance to The Minch, roughly halfway between the Eilean Glas and Rinns of Islay lighthouses. The 58 foot (18 m) stone tower, built in 1833, stands on the west side of the island, at the top of a very steep cliff, making the light the highest in the UK with a focal plane of 682 feet (208 m) above sea level. It has a range of 18 nautical miles (21 mi; 33 km). There is no shallow water west of Berneray to break the blow of the Atlantic storms and small fish are sometimes thrown onto the grass on the cliff top. In 1836 Sir Archibald Geikie recorded the movement of a 42 long tons (43 t) block of gneiss across 5 feet (1.5 m) of ground during a violent storm.


Dalradian in geology describes a series of metamorphic rocks, typically developed in the high ground which lies southeast of the Great Glen of Scotland. This was the old Celtic region of Dál Riata (Dalriada), and in 1891 Archibald Geikie proposed the name Dalradian as a convenient provisional designation for the complicated set of rocks to which it was then difficult to assign a definite position in the stratigraphical sequence.In Archibald Geikie's words, "they consist in large proportion of altered sedimentary strata, now found in the form of mica-schist, graphite-schist, andalusite-schist, phyllite, schistose grit, greywacke and conglomerate, quartzite, limestone and other rocks, together with epidiorites, chlorite-schists, hornblende schists and other allied varieties, which probably mark sills, lava-sheets or beds of tuff, intercalated among the sediments. The total thickness of this assemblage of rocks must be many thousand feet." The Dalradian Series (as then defined) included the "Eastern or Younger schists" of eastern Sutherland, Ross-shire and Inverness-shire, the Moine gneiss, as well as the metamorphosed igneous and sedimentary rocks of the central, eastern and southwestern Scottish Highlands. The series has been traced into the northwestern counties of Ireland. The whole of the Dalradian complex has suffered intense crushing and thrusting.This thick rock sequence (excluding the Moine sequence) is now called the Dalradian Supergroup and geologists divide it into four groups: the Grampian, Appin, Argyll, and Southern Highland groups. Some of these groups are themselves divided into subgroups.

Danggu Gorge National Park

Danggu (Geikie) Gorge National Park is a national park in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, 1,837 kilometres (1,141 mi) (great circle distance) northeast of Perth and approximately 420 km (261 mi) east of Broome by road.

The gorge was originally named in honour of Sir Archibald Geikie, the Director General of Geological Survey for Great Britain and Ireland when it was given its European name in 1883. Sir Archibald never visited the gorge and the National Park is progressively being officially changed to the Bunuba traditional owners name of Danggu.The park is one of the most accessible in the Kimberley as it is only 20 km (12 mi) from Fitzroy Crossing and is serviced by a sealed road. No camping is allowed in the park and visitors can only enter during the day. The park has picnic shelters, barbecue areas, toilets and water available.A 3-kilometre (2 mi) walk trail exists along the western base of the gorge walls although the terrain is rough and uneven it does offer an excellent view. The eastern side of the gorge is closed to visitors as it is a nature preserve. Tour boats also operate in the gorge and a boat ramp is available for the public to use. Hours of use of the boat ramp are restricted to outside of boat tour times.

The gorge has been formed by the Fitzroy River and the level of the river in the wet season can rise by up to 16.5 metres (54 ft). The flood level can be clearly seen on the walls where the abrasive action of the floodwaters on the limestone has scoured the surface white.

The limestone was originally a reef formed not by corals but by algae and lime secreting organisms that are now extinct. The reef was formed in the Devonian period when the reeding waters allowed the organisms to build a reef up to 2 km (1 mi) thick. The remains of the reef now stand as the limestone range that wind across the countryside up to 100 m (330 ft) above the plains. Fossils from the devonian can be found within the limestone strata.

The river water sustains an abundance of life including barramundi, sawfish and freshwater crocodiles all of which can be found in the gorge.The vegetation that fringes the river bank includes River Gums, freshwater mangroves, pandanus, cadjeput and native figs. Dense banks of reeds are also found along the banks. The flora provides a suitable habitat for a range of fauna including fruit bats, lilac-crowned wren, reed warbler and the great bowerbird.

Derek John Blundell

Derek John Blundell (born 1933) is a British geologist, now Emeritus Professor of Geophysics, Royal Holloway, University of London.

He was President of the Geological Society from 1988 to 1990 and awarded the Society's Coke Medal in 1993.

Dorsa Geikie

Dorsa Geikie is a wrinkle ridge at 4.6°S 52.5°E / -4.6; 52.5 in Mare Fecunditatis on the Moon. It is approximately 220 km long and was named after Scottish geologist Sir Archibald Geikie in 1976 by the IAU.


Geikie is a surname. Notable people with the surname include:

Archibald Geikie (1835–1924), Scottish geologist and writer

Georgina Geikie (born 1984), British sport shooter

James Geikie (1839–1915), Scottish geologist

John Cunningham Geikie (1824–2000), Scottish Presbyterian minister and writer

Walter Geikie (1795–1837), Scottish painter

Harold Geikie (born 1941), Canadian sales man

Ethan Geikie (born 2004),Football player

Geikie Glacier

Geikie Glacier (54°17′S 36°41′W) is a glacier which flows northeast to Mercer Bay, at the southwest end of Cumberland West Bay, South Georgia. It was first charted by the Swedish Antarctic Expedition, 1901–04, under Otto Nordenskiöld, who named it after Sir Archibald Geikie, a noted Scottish geologist and Director-General of the Geological Survey of Great Britain, 1882–1901.It should not be confused with Geikie Glacier (58° 35' 48" N, 136° 36' 34" W), part of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Southeast Alaska. The Alaskan Geikie Glacier was named in 1879 by John Muir for James Geikie (1839–1915), Sir Archibald's younger brother. By 1892, the glacier had retreated and broken in two. The more northerly glacier retained the name "Geikie" and the other, renamed "Wood Glacier," has since disappeared.

Geikie Gorge

Geikie Gorge (known locally as Darngku) is a feature of the Napier Range and is located within the grounds of Danggu Gorge National Park (formerly, Geikie Gorge National Park), 20 kilometres (12 mi) from Fitzroy Crossing, 1,831 km (1,138 mi) northeast of Perth and 420 km (260 mi) east of Broome in the Kimberley Region of Western Australia. Believed to be one of the best-known and most easily accessed, the gorge is named in honour of Sir Archibald Geikie, the Director General of Geological Survey for Great Britain and Ireland when it was given its European name in 1883.Along with Tunnel Creek and Windjana Gorge, Geikie Gorge is part of an ancient barrier reef that developed during the Devonian Period. The walls of the gorge are 30 metres high. The eight kilometer gorge was created by the flowing waters of the Fitzroy River, which still flows through the region. Freshwater crocodiles, Leichhardt's sawfish and coach-whip stingrays inhabit the river.

Geikie Ridge

Geikie Ridge (71°44′S 169°36′E) is a massive mountain ridge, 20 nautical miles (37 km) long and 6 nautical miles (11 km) wide, forming the divide between Dugdale Glacier and Murray Glacier in the Admiralty Mountains of Victoria Land, Antarctica. It was first charted by the British Antarctic Expedition, 1898–1900, under Carsten Borchgrevink, who named the high land between these glaciers "Geikie Land", after Sir Archibald Geikie (for whom Geikie Glacier and Geikie Inlet were also named). The generic "Land" has been changed to "Ridge", since it was not appropriate for so small a feature, but Borchgrevink's intent in naming the whole mass has been respected. This geographical feature lies situated on the Pennell Coast, a portion of Antarctica lying between Cape Williams and Cape Adare.


Geikielite is a magnesium titanium oxide mineral with formula: MgTiO3. It is a member of the ilmenite group. It crystallizes in the trigonal system forming typically opaque, black to reddish black crystals.

It was first described in 1892 for an occurrence in the Ceylonese gem bearing gravel placers. It was named for Scottish geologist Sir Archibald Geikie (1835–1924). It occurs in metamorphosed impure magnesian limestones, in serpentinite derived from ultramafic rocks, in kimberlites and carbonatites. Associated minerals include rutile, spinel, clinohumite, perovskite, diopside, serpentine, forsterite, brucite, hydrotalcite, chlorite and calcite.

Geological Observations on the Volcanic Islands

Geological Observations on the Volcanic Islands, visited during the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle is a book written by the English naturalist Charles Darwin. The book was published in 1844, and is based on his travels during the second voyage of HMS Beagle, commanded by captain Robert FitzRoy. It is the second book in a series of geology books written by Darwin, and also includes The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs, published in 1842, and Geological Observations on South America, published in 1846.The text contains seven chapters, and includes observations made during Darwin's travels to the volcanic island of St. Jago in Cape Verde, the Fernando de Noronha archipelago, Ascension Island, the island of Saint Helena, the Galápagos Islands, James Island, New Zealand, Australia, Van Diemen's Land, and the Cape of Good Hope.The book includes one of the earliest accounts of the process of magmatic differentiation. While observing a basaltic lava flow in the Galápagos Islands, Darwin observed that "crystals sink from their weight" and that this "throws light on the separation of the high silica versus low silica series of rocks." This was the first proposal of the fractional crystallization hypothesis of magma differentiation that was further developed and demonstrated in the 20th century.

The geologist Archibald Geikie praised the book, calling it "the best authority on the general geological structure of most of the regions it describes," and that Darwin was "one of the earliest writers to recognize the magnitude of denudation to which even recent geological accumulations have been subjected."A second edition of the book, published in 1876, combines Geological Observations on the Volcanic Islands with Geological Observations on South America.

George Panton

George A. Panton FRSE (d. 1902) was a 19th century British botanist.

He is thought to have been born in Edinburgh around 1840, possibly the son of William Panton, a clothier.

In 1863 he is noted as a member of the Botanical Society of Edinburgh and was living at 31 Gayfield Square at the top of Leith Walk.In 1877 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. His proposers were Sir Charles Wyville Thomson, Sir Archibald Geikie, John Hutton Balfour, and Alexander Buchan.In 1882 he is noted as Secretary of the Birmingham branch of the Botanical Society of Edinburgh and is living at 95 Colmore Row.

John William Evans (geologist)

John William Evans (27 July 1857 – 16 November 1930) was a British geologist. Evans was president of the Geological Society of London 1924–26. He received its Murchison Medal in 1922.

Leonard Hawkes

Leonard Hawkes FRS (6 August 1891 – 29 October 1981) was a British geologist. Awarded the Murchison Medal in 1946 and the Wollaston Medal in 1962. He was head of the geology department at Bedford College, London between 1921 and 1956.

List of Makdougall Brisbane Prize winners

This is a list of winners of the Makdougall Brisbane Prize of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. It is not to be confused with the similarly named award given by the Royal Scottish Society of Arts.

Sources (to 2002): RSE

and RSE

1859 – Roderick Murchison

1860–62 – William Seller

1862–64 – Sir John Denis Macdonald


1866–68 – Alexander Crum Brown and Thomas Richard Fraser (joint)

1868–70 – Not awarded

1870–72 – George Allman

1872–74 – Joseph Lister

1874–76 – Alexander Buchan

1876–78 – Archibald Geikie

1878–80 – Charles Piazzi Smyth

1880–82 – James Geikie

1882–84 – Edward Sang

1884–86 – Sir John Murray

1886–88 – Archibald Geikie (only Fellow twice awarded the prize)

1888–90 – Ludwig Becker

1890–92 – Hugh Robert Mill

1892–94 – James Walker

1894–96 – John Gray McKendrick

1896–98 – William Peddie

1898–1900 – Ramsay Traquair

1900–02 – Arthur T. Masterman

1902–04 – John Dougall

1904–06 – Jakob Karl Ernst Halm

1906–08 – David Thomas Gwynne-Vaughan

1908–10 – Ernest Wedderburn

1910–12 – John Brownlee

1912–14 – Charles Robertson Marshall

1914–16 – Robert Alexander Houstoun

1916–18 – Abercrombie Lawson

1918–20 – Joseph Wedderburn

1920–22 – William Thomas Gordon

1922–24 – Herbert Stanley Allen

1924–26 – Charles Morley Wenyon, protozoologist

1926–28 – William Ogilvy Kermack


1930–32 – Alexander Aitken

1932–34 – Alfred Ernest Henderson Cameron

1934–36 – Ernest Masson Anderson

1936–38 – David Meredith Seares Watson

1938–40 – Edward Lindsay Ince

1940–42 – William Wright Smith

1942–44 – Max Born and Peng Huanwu

1944–46 – William Black

1946–48 - Mowbray Ritchie


1950–52 – Edward Maitland Wright

1952–54 – William Charles Osman Hill

1954–56 – Maurice Yonge

1956–58 – Ian Sneddon


1960–62 – Edward McWilliam Patterson

1962–64 – Arthur Holmes

1964–66 – Daniel Edwin Rutherford

1966–68 – James Norman Davidson

1968–70 – Norman Feather


1972–74 – David Paton Cuthbertson

1974–76 – Frederick Valentine Atkinson


1978–80 – Walter Eric Spear

1980–82 – William Fleming Hoggan Jarrett

1982–84 – John Henderson Knox

1984–86 – Malcolm Andrew Ferguson-Smith



1992 – Tom Brown, University of Oxford

1994 - Gordon Hayward

1996 – Mike Ferguson, University of Dundee

1998 – Weiping Lu, Heriot Watt University (67th award)

1999 – Anne Neville – Professor, School of Mechanical Engineering, Leeds

2001 – Dario Alessi

2003 – James Wright

2005 – Colin McInnes

2007 – Andrew Baker


2012 – Sharon Ashbrook, University of St Andrews and Rob Jenkins, University of York

2013 - Aidan Robson, University of Glasgow

2014 - Per Ola Kristensson and Catherine Cazin, University of St Andrews

2015 - Stefan Hild, University of Glasgow

2016 - Malcolm Macdonald, University of Strathclyde

2017- Stephen Brusatte, University of Edinburgh

Walter Campbell Smith

Walter Campbell Smith (1887–1988), later formally Campbell-Smith, was a British mineralogist and petrologist. Awarded the Murchison Medal in 1945.

William George Fearnsides

William George Fearnsides FRS (1879–1968) was a British geologist at the University of Cambridge.

17th century
18th century
19th century
20th century
21st century
19th century
20th century
21st century

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.