Isaac Watts

Isaac Watts (17 July 1674 – 25 November 1748) was an English Christian minister (Congregational), hymn writer, theologian, and logician. He was a prolific and popular hymn writer and is credited with some 750 hymns. He is recognized as the "Godfather of English Hymnody"; many of his hymns remain in use today and have been translated into numerous languages.

Isaac Watts
Isaac Watts from NPG
Portrait by an unknown artist
Born17 July 1674
Died25 November 1748 (aged 74)
OccupationHymnwriter, theologian
Known for"When I Survey the Wondrous Cross", "Joy to the World", "Our God, Our Help in Ages Past"
Statue of Isaac Watts, Abney Park Cemetery
Statue of Isaac Watts, Abney Park Cemetery

Life

Watts was born in Southampton, England in 1674 and was brought up in the home of a committed religious nonconformist; his father, also Isaac Watts, had been incarcerated twice for his views. Watts had a classical education at King Edward VI School, learning Latin, Greek, and Hebrew.

Watts displayed a propensity for rhyme from an early age. He was once asked why he had his eyes open during prayers, to which he responded:

A little mouse for want of stairs
ran up a rope to say its prayers.

He received corporal punishment for this, to which he cried:

O father, father, pity take
And I will no more verses make.[1][2]

Watts could not attend Oxford or Cambridge because he was a nonconformist and these universities were restricted to Anglicans—as were government positions at the time. He went to the Dissenting Academy at Stoke Newington in 1690. Much of the remainder of his life centered on that village, which is now part of Inner London.

Following his education, Watts was called as pastor of a large independent chapel in London, Mark Lane Congregational Chapel, where he helped train preachers, despite his poor health. He held religious opinions that were more nondenominational or ecumenical than was common for a nonconformist Congregationalist. He had a greater interest in promoting education and scholarship than preaching for any particular sect.

Watts took work as a private tutor and lived with the nonconformist Hartopp family at Fleetwood House on Church Street in Stoke Newington. Through them, he became acquainted with their immediate neighbours Sir Thomas Abney and Lady Mary. He eventually lived for a total of 36 years in the Abney household, most of the time at Abney House, their second residence. (Lady Mary had inherited the manor of Stoke Newington in 1701 from her late brother Thomas Gunston.)

On the death of Sir Thomas Abney in 1722, his widow Lady Mary and her unmarried daughter Elizabeth moved all her household to Abney House from Hertfordshire, and she invited Watts to continue with them. He particularly enjoyed the grounds at Abney Park, which Lady Mary planted with two elm walks leading down to an island heronry in the Hackney Brook, and he often sought inspiration there for the many books and hymns that he wrote.

Watts lived at Abney Hall in Stoke Newington until his death in 1748; he was buried in Bunhill Fields. He left an extensive legacy of hymns, treatises, educational works, and essays. His work was influential amongst nonconformist independents and religious revivalists of the 18th century, such as Philip Doddridge, who dedicated his best-known work to Watts.

Watts and hymnody

Sacred music scholars Stephen Marini, Denny Prutow and Michael LeFebvre describe the ways in which Watts contributed to English hymnody and the previous tradition of the Church. Watts led the change in practice by including new poetry for "original songs of Christian experience" to be used in worship, according to Marini.[3] The older tradition was based on the poetry of the Bible: the Psalms. According to LeFebvre, Psalms had been sung by God's people from the time of King David, who with a large staff over many years assembled the complete book of Psalms in a form appropriate for singing (by the Levites, during Temple sacrifices at the time). The practice of singing Psalms in worship was continued by Biblical command in the New Testament Church from its beginnings in Acts through the time of Watts, as documented by Prutow. The teachings of 16th-century Reformation leaders such as John Calvin, who translated the Psalms in the vernacular for congregational singing, followed this historic worship practice.[4] Watts was not the first Protestant to promote the singing of hymns; however, his prolific hymn writing helped usher in a new era of English worship as many other poets followed in his path.[5]

Watts also introduced a new way of rendering the Psalms in verse for church services, proposing that they be adapted for hymns with a specifically Christian perspective. As Watts put it in the title of his 1719 metrical Psalter, the Psalms should be "imitated in the language of the New Testament."[3] Besides writing hymns, Isaac Watts was also a theologian and logician, writing books and essays on these subjects.

Logic

Isaac Watts
Isaac Watts

Watts wrote a textbook on logic which was particularly popular; its full title was, Logic, or The Right Use of Reason in the Enquiry After Truth With a Variety of Rules to Guard Against Error in the Affairs of Religion and Human Life, as well as in the Sciences. This was first published in 1724, and it was printed in twenty editions.

Watts wrote this work for beginners of logic, and arranged the book methodically. He divided the content of his elementary treatment of logic into four parts: perception, judgement, reasoning, and method, which he treated in this order. Each of these parts is divided into chapters, and some of these chapters are divided into sections. The content of the chapters and sections is subdivided by the following devices: divisions, distributions, notes, observations, directions, rules, illustrations, and remarks. Every contentum of the book comes under one or more of these headings, and this methodical arrangement serves to make the exposition clear.

In Watts' Logic, there are notable departures from other works of the time, and some notable innovations. The influence of British empiricism may be seen, especially that of contemporary philosopher and empiricist John Locke. Logic includes several references to Locke and his Essay Concerning Human Understanding,[6] in which he espoused his empiricist views. Watts was careful to distinguish between judgements and propositions, unlike some other logic authors. According to Watts, judgement is "to compare... ideas together, and to join them by affirmation, or disjoin then by negation, according as we find them to agree or disagree".[7] He continues, "when mere ideas are joined in the mind without words, it is rather called a judgement; but when clothed with words it is called a proposition".[8] Watts' Logic follows the scholastic tradition and divides propositions into universal affirmative, universal negative, particular affirmative, and particular negative.

In the third part, Watts discusses reasoning and argumentation, with particular emphasis on the theory of syllogism. This was considered a centrally important part of classical logic. According to Watts, and in keeping with logicians of his day, Watts defined logic as an art (see liberal arts), as opposed to a science. Throughout Logic, Watts revealed his high conception of logic by stressing the practical side of logic, rather than the speculative side. According to Watts, as a practical art, logic can be really useful in any inquiry, whether it is an inquiry in the arts, or inquiry in the sciences, or inquiry of an ethical kind. Watts' emphasis on logic as a practical art distinguishes his book from others.

By stressing a practical and non-formal part of logic, Watts gave rules and directions for any kind of inquiry, including the inquiries of science and the inquiries of philosophy. These rules of inquiry were given in addition to the formal content of classical logic common to textbooks on logic from that time. Watts' conception of logic as being divided into its practical part and its speculative part marks a departure from the conception of logic of most other authors. His conception of logic is more akin to that of the later, nineteenth-century logician, C. S. Peirce.

Isaac Watts' Logic became the standard text on logic at Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and Yale, being used at Oxford for well over 100 years. C. S. Peirce, the great nineteenth-century logician, wrote favourably of Watts' Logic. When preparing his own textbook, titled A Critick of Arguments: How to Reason (also known as the Grand Logic), Peirce wrote, 'I shall suppose the reader to be acquainted with what is contained in Dr Watts' Logick, a book... far superior to the treatises now used in colleges, being the production of a man distinguished for good sense.'[9]

Watts followed the Logic in 1741 by a supplement, The Improvement of the Mind. This also went through numerous editions and later inspired Michael Faraday. It was also widely used as a moral textbook in schools.

Legacy, honours and memorials

Isaac Watts DD tomb in Bunhill Fields
Isaac Watts' tomb in Bunhill Fields
Abneysharelist.jpeg
London's only public statue to Isaac Watts is in Abney Park, Stoke Newington.
Watts Park
Statue of Isaac Watts in Watts Park, Southampton (city of his birth)

On his death, Isaac Watts' papers were given to Yale University in the Colony of Connecticut, which nonconformists (Puritans/Congregationalists) had established. King Edward VI School, Southampton, which he attended, named one of its houses "Watts" in his honour.

The Church of England and Lutheran Church remember Watts (and his ministerial service) annually in the Calendar of Saints on 25 November, and the Episcopal Church on the following day.

The earliest surviving built memorial to Isaac Watts is at Westminster Abbey; this was completed shortly after his death. His much-visited chest tomb at Bunhill Fields dates from 1808, replacing the original that had been paid for and erected by Lady Mary Abney and the Hartopp family.[10] A stone bust of Watts is installed at the nonconformist Dr Williams's Library, in central London. The earliest public statue, erected in 1845, stands at Abney Park, where Watts had lived for more than 30 years at the manor house, where he also died. The park was later devoted to uses as a cemetery and public arboretum. A later, rather similar statue was funded by public subscription and erected in a new Victorian public park named for Watts in Southampton, the city of his birth. In the mid-nineteenth century, the Congregational Dr Watts Memorial Hall was built in Southampton and named for him. After World War II, it was lost to redevelopment. The Isaac Watts Memorial United Reformed Church was built on the site and named for him. One of the earliest built memorials may also now be lost: a bust to Watts that was commissioned on his death for the London chapel with which he was associated. The chapel was demolished in the late 18th century; remaining parts of the memorial were rescued at the last minute by a wealthy landowner for installation in his chapel near Liverpool. It is unclear whether the bust survives. The stone statue in front of the Abney Park Chapel at Dr Watts' Walk, Abney Park Cemetery, was erected in 1845 by public subscription. It was designed by the leading British sculptor, Edward Hodges Baily RA FRS. A scheme for a commemorative statue on this spot had first been promoted in the late 1830s by George Collison, who in 1840 published an engraving as the frontispiece of his book about cemetery design in Europe and America; and at Abney Park Cemetery in particular. This first cenotaph proposal was never commissioned, and Baily's later design was adopted in 1845. In 1974, the City of Southampton (Watts' home city) commemorated the 300 year anniversary of his birth by commissioning the biography Isaac Watts Remembered, written by David G. Fountain, who like Watts, was also a nonconformist minister from Southampton.

Cultural or contemporary influences

One of Watts' best-known poems was an exhortation "Against Idleness and Mischief" in Divine Songs for Children. This was parodied by Lewis Carroll in the poem "How Doth the Little Crocodile", included in his book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. His parody is better known than Watts' original poem. The poem was also featured in the segment on the cartoon programme "Rocky and His Friends" called "Bullwinkle's Corner", in which Bullwinkle Moose recites poetry. In this case, the poem was titled "The Bee", with no author credit.

In his novel David Copperfield (1850), Charles Dickens has school master Dr. Strong quote from Watts' "Against Idleness and Mischief".

The 1884 comic opera Princess Ida includes a punning reference to Watts in Act I. At Princess Ida's women's university, no males are allowed. Her father King Gama says that "She'll scarcely suffer Dr. Watts' 'hymns'".

A poem often referred to as "False Greatness" by Joseph Merrick ("The Elephant Man"), which was used in writing or "signature block" by Merrick, starting "Tis true, my form is something odd but blaming me, is blaming God..." is often (incorrectly) quoted or cited as a work by Isaac Watts. In fact only the last few sentences were penned by Watts ("False Greatness", book II-Horae lyricae 1743) starting "Mylo, forbear to call him bless'd That only boasts a large estate..."[11]

Works

Books

Hymns

Watts' hymns include:

Many of Watts' hymns are included in the Anglican Hymns Ancient and Modern, the Oxford Book of Common Praise, the Christadelphian hymnal, the Episcopal Church's Hymnal 1982, Evangelical Lutheran Worship, the Baptist Hymnal, the Presbyterian Trinity Hymnal, and the Methodist Hymns and Psalms. Many of his texts are also used in the American hymnal, The Sacred Harp, using what is known as the shape note notation used for teaching non-musicians. Several of his hymns are used in the hymnals of the Church of Christ, Scientist and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Mable, Norman, Popular Hymns and their Writers, p. 179.
  2. ^ Boreham, F. W. (1945), A Late Lark Singing, p. 29.
  3. ^ a b Marini 2003, p. 76.
  4. ^ Marini 2003, p. 71.
  5. ^ Marini 2003, p. 76 lists hymn writers who followed in the tradition established by Watts, including Charles Wesley, Edward Perronet, Ann Steele, Samuel Stennet, Augustus Toplady, John Newton, William Cowper, Reginald Heber, Samuel Davies, Timothy Dwight, John Leland, and Peter Cartwright.
  6. ^ Watts 1825, p. 14.
  7. ^ Watts 1825, p. 115.
  8. ^ Watts 1825, p. 117.
  9. ^ Peirce, C. S. (1933) The Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, vol. II, Paul Weiss and Charles Hartshorne, eds. Cambridge MASS, Harvard University Press
  10. ^ Historic England. "Monument to Isaac Watts, East Enclosure (1396517)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 24 February 2014.
  11. ^ Watts, Isaac, The Poems of Isaac Watts, Volumes 44–46, Press of C. Whittingham, 1822, p. 193.

References

  • Jones, J. A., ed. (1849). Bunhill Memorials: sacred reminiscences of three hundred ministers and other persons of note, who are buried in Bunhill Fields, of every denomination. London: James Paul. pp. 298–304.
  • Marini, Stephen A. (2003). Sacred Song in America: Religion, Music, and Public Culture. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
  • Thorncroft, Michael (1958). "The Fertile Soil; The Church is Built; The Early Years (1714–1758); The Age of Richard Price; New Causes for Old; The Ideal of Service; The Lights Go Out; The Present Day". Trust in Freedom: The Story of Newington Green Unitarian Church 1708–1958. Privately printed for church trustees..
  • Watts, Isaac (1825). Logic or the Right Use of Reason in the Inquiry After Truth; with a Variety of Rules to Guard Against Error in the Affairs of Religion and Human Life, as well as in the sciences (reprint ed.). US: Kessinger..

External links

Abney Park

Abney Park is situated in Stoke Newington, London, England. It is a 13ha (32 acre) park dating from just before 1700, named after Lady Mary Abney and associated with Dr Isaac Watts, who laid out an arboretum. In the early 18th century, the park was accessed via the frontages and gardens of two large mansions—her own manor house (Abney House), and the neighbouring Fleetwood House. Both mansions fronted onto Church Street in what was then a quiet Nonconformist village. In 1840, the grounds were turned into Abney Park Cemetery, where 200,000 people were buried. Abney Park now serves mainly as a nature reserve.

Croxley Green Windmill

Croxley Green Windmill is a Grade II listed tower mill at Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, England which has been converted to residential accommodation.

Divine Songs Attempted in Easy Language for the Use of Children

Divine Songs Attempted in Easy Language for the Use of Children (also known as Divine and Moral Songs for Children and other similar titles) is a collection of didactic, moralistic poetry for children by Isaac Watts, first published in 1715. Though Watts's hymns are now better known than these poems, Divine Songs was a ubiquitous children's book for nearly two hundred years, serving as a standard textbook in schools. By the mid-19th century there were more than one thousand editions.Three of the best-known poems in the collection are "Praise for Creation and Providence", "Against Idleness and Mischief", and "The Sluggard".

"Praise for Creation and Providence" (better known as "I sing the mighty power of God") is now a hymn sung by all ages. "Against Idleness and Mischief" and "The Sluggard" (better known as "How doth the little busy bee" and "'Tis the voice of the sluggard") were both meant to teach children the importance of hard work, and were extremely well known in the nineteenth century. Walter de la Mare wrote that "a childhood without the busy bee and the sluggard would resemble a hymnal without ‘O God, our help in ages past’." Charles Dickens's novels occasionally quote "Against Idleness and Mischief"; for instance, in his 1850 novel David Copperfield, the school master Dr. Strong quotes lines 11-12: "Satan finds some mischief still, for idle hands to do." In his 1865 fantasy Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll parodies both "Against Idleness and Mischief" as "How Doth the Little Crocodile" and "The Sluggard" as "'Tis the voice of the Lobster".

Freeby

Freeby is a village and civil parish in the Melton district of Leicestershire, England, about 3 miles (5 km) east of Melton Mowbray. As well as the village of Freeby the civil parish includes the villages of Brentingby, Saxby, Stapleford and Wyfordby. The 2011 Census recorded the parish population as 244.Isaac Watts preached at the Congregational chapel, which became in United Reformed Church the early 1970s.

HMS Psyche (1862)

HMS Psyche was a wooden Psyche-class paddle despatch vessel built to an 1860 design by Isaac Watts. She was ordered from Pembroke Dockyard in and launched on 29 March 1862, having cost c. £43,000 to build.

She was wrecked on 15 December 1870 off Catania, Italy, while carrying a party including George Howard Darwin to observe the solar eclipse from Sicily. Her wreck was blown up in February 1871.

Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1985 book)

Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the official hymnal of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church).

Published in English in 1985, and later in many other languages, it is used throughout the LDS Church. This article refers to the English version. The book was published on the 150th anniversary of the publication of the first LDS hymnbook, compiled by Emma Smith in 1835. Previous hymnbooks used by the church include The Manchester Hymnal (1840), The Psalmody (1889), Songs of Zion (1908), Hymns (1927), and Hymns (1948).

On June 18, 2018, the church announced that an updated version of both the hymnbook and the Children's Songbook would be revised through a process of soliciting feedback for a one-year period (which would conclude in July 2019), with that feedback culminating in a unified version of both books that would be used by all congregations worldwide, which would include the use of the same numbering system.

Hymnwriter

A hymn writer (or hymnwriter or hymnist or hymnographer) is someone who writes the text, music or both of hymns. In the Judeo-Christian tradition the composition of hymns dates back to before the time of David who composed many of the Psalms. The term hymnodist, in the USA more than in other regions, broadens the scope to include the study of hymns.

Isaac Watts (naval architect)

Isaac Watts (1797–1876) was an early British naval architect. Together with Chief Engineer Thomas Lloyd, he designed HMS Warrior, the world's first armour-plated iron-hulled warship. When he retired his position as Chief Constructor was taken by Edward Reed.

Josiah Hort

Josiah Hort (c. 1674 – 14 December 1751), was an English clergyman of the Church of Ireland who ended his career as archbishop of Tuam (1742–1751).

Brought up as a Nonconformist, Hort went to school with the hymn writer Isaac Watts, who was his lifelong friend. He began as a Nonconformist minister, but then conformed to the Church of England, attending Clare College, Cambridge.

In 1709 Hort went to Ireland to serve as chaplain for Thomas Wharton, 1st Marquess of Wharton, Lord-Lieutenant, and obtained a parish there. After two deaneries (Cloyne (1718–1720) and Ardagh (1720–1721)) and two bishoprics (firstly of Ferns, then of Kilmore & Ardagh), he became Archbishop of Tuam. He also served for a period as a preacher and a volume of his sermons on "practical subjects" went through several editions. Because the rise of the English clergy was unpopular in Ireland, Dean Jonathan Swift, launched a violent attack on him in a satirical poem. Later on Swift became friendly toward Hort.

In his will he exhorted his children to carry out his intentions "without having recourse to law and the subtility of lawyers," and in the case of difficulty to refer questions to "the decision of persons of known probity and wisdom, this being not only the most Christian, but the most prudent and cheap and summary way of deciding all differences."

Joy to the World

"Joy to the World" is a popular Christmas carol with words by Isaac Watts. As of the late 20th century, "Joy to the World" was the most-published Christmas hymn in North America.

List of public art in the London Borough of Hackney

This is a list of public art in the London Borough of Hackney.

Mary Abney

Mary, Lady Abney (née Gunston) (1676 – 12 January 1750) inherited the Manor of Stoke Newington in 1701 from her brother. The property lies about five miles north of St Paul's Cathedral in the City of London. She had a great influence on the design and landscaping of Abney Park, including the planting of the two elm walks that lead to Hackney Brook.

She is known for having sheltered Dr Isaac Watts, a Nonconformist known as the father of English hymnody for his hundreds of hymns, as a houseguest for 36 years. He was inspired by her park in his writing of hymns and poems.

Nonconformist

In English church history, a Nonconformist was a Protestant who did not "conform" to the governance and usages of the established Church of England. Broad use of the term was precipitated after the Restoration of the British monarchy in 1660, when the Act of Uniformity 1662 re-established the opponents of reform within the Church of England. By the late 19th century the term specifically included the Reformed Christians (Presbyterians, Congregationalists and other Calvinist sects), plus the Baptists and Methodists. The English Dissenters such as the Puritans who violated the Act of Uniformity 1559—typically by practising radical, sometimes separatist, dissent—were retrospectively labelled as Nonconformists.

By law and social custom, Nonconformists were restricted from many spheres of public life—not least, from access to public office, civil service careers, or degrees at university—and were referred to as suffering from civil disabilities. In England and Wales in the late 19th century the new terms "free churchman" and "Free Church" started to replace "dissenter" or "Nonconformist".One influential Nonconformist minister was Matthew Henry, who beginning in 1710 published his multi-volume Commentary that is still used and available in the 21st century. Isaac Watts is an equally recognized Nonconformist minister whose hymns are still sung by Christians worldwide.

Our God, Our Help in Ages Past

"Our God, Our Help in Ages Past" is a hymn by Isaac Watts that paraphrases the 90th Psalm of the Book of Psalms. It originally consisted of nine stanzas; however, in present usage the fourth, sixth, and eighth stanzas are commonly omitted to leave a total of six (Methodist books also include the original sixth stanza to leave a total of seven). In 1738, John Wesley in his hymnal, Psalms and Hymns, changed the first line of the text from "Our God" to "O God." Both Watts' wording and Wesley's rewording remain in current use.

Psalm 72

Psalm 72 is the 72nd psalm from the Book of Psalms. Traditions hold that it was written by King Solomon, although most modern scholars dispute this. In the Greek Septuagint version of the bible, and in its Latin translation in the Vulgate, this psalm is Psalm 71 in a slightly different numbering system.

Sloth (deadly sin)

Sloth is one of the seven capital sins. It is the most difficult sin to define, and to credit as sin, since it refers to a peculiar jumble of notions, dating from antiquity and including mental, spiritual, pathological, and physical states. One definition is: a habitual disinclination to exertion, or laziness.Views concerning the virtue of work to support society and further God's plan suggest that on the contrary, through inactivity, one invites sin. "For Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do. Satan is the God of sin, the underworld and all things evil." ("Against Idleness and Mischief" by Isaac Watts).

Susanna Highmore

Susanna Highmore (née Hiller) (1690 – 18 November 1750) was a British poet with a relatively small literary output. She was wife to Joseph Highmore, whom she married (listed as "an heiress") on 28 May 1716. Joseph Highmore was a portrait painter in high demand, and the couple lived in London and associated with Isaac Watts, William Duncombe, and Samuel Richardson. They had two children, Anthony Highmore (later a painter) and Susanna (also known as a poet).

She educated her children according to the precepts of John Locke and kept them at home. Richardson said that she was an indulgent but conscientious mother.

Her first publication came with an obituary for Isaac Watts, published anonymously, in 1748. In 1749, she wrote A Calvinistical Reflection for The Gentleman's Magazine. It was a satire and critique of Calvinism in highly polished verse. John Nichols later published two small poems written with great wit and polish, one being a pastiche of an Alexander Pope poem. Despite these hints at Highmore's skill, she left nothing more to the public. Her husband said that there were a great many poems that she wrote and left lying around, but he did not think to collect them nor she to publish them (her religious principles partly discouraging her from the pride of seeking attention).

She died at the age of sixty.

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

The hymn, "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross", was written by Isaac Watts, and published in Hymns and Spiritual Songs in 1707. It is significant for being an innovative departure from the early English hymn style of only using paraphrased biblical texts, although the first two lines of the second verse do paraphrase St Paul at Galatians 6:14. The poetry of "When I survey..." may be seen as English literary baroque.

William Whitehead Watts

William Whitehead Watts FRS (7 June 1860 – 30 July 1947) was a British geologist. He was born at Broseley, Shropshire, son of farmer Isaac Watts, and educated at Denstone College and Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, of which he was a fellow in 1888–94; he gained first class honours in geology in 1881, graduated BA in 1882 and MA in 1885, and became ScD in 1909. He lectured for the Cambridge University Extension Scheme for ten years. He began to study the geology of Shropshire and his first paper on the subject was published in 1885. He worked with Charles Lapworth on Shelve and the Corndon and taught at Mason College (which later became Birmingham University) during Lapworth's absence.

He taught geology at Oxford in 1888, and from 1891 to 1897 he joined the Geological Survey, working first in Ireland and then on Charnwood Forest. He taught at Mason College and Birmingham University from 1897 to 1906, when he accepted the chair of geology at the Imperial College of Science and Technology, South Kensington. Watts served as secretary (1898–1909) and as president (1910–12) of the Geological Society.

He edited British Geological Photographs, and published Geology for Beginners (1898). Professor Watts was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1904. He won the Murchison Medal (1915) and the Wollaston Medal of the Geological Society.

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