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Memoir of Sir Andrew Crombie Ramsay
By Sir Archibald Geikie (1895)

ANDREW C. RAMSAY, from a Photograph by D. Hains (1882)


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 chosen.

LONDON, 12th September 1894.


Chapter I
Parentage and Youth
Chapter II
The Ordnance Geological Survey
Chapter III
The Geological Survey under the Office of Works
Chapter IV
The Professorship of Geology at University College, London
Chapter V
The Survey of the Snowden Region
Chapter VI
The School of Mines and Museum, Jermyn Street
Chapter VII
The Geological Survey in Scotland
Chapter VIII
Foreign Travel
Chapter IX
The Presidency of the Geological Society Reorganisation of the Geological Survey
Chapter X
Director-General of the Geological Survey
Chapter XI
Retirement, Summary of career
List of Works by A. C. Ramsay

The Physical Geology of Great Britain
A Manual of British Geology by the Late Sir Andrew C. Ramsay, LL.D., F.E.S., &c. Director-General of the Geological Survey of the United Kingdom with a geological map, printed in colour (sixth edition) edited by Horace B. Woodward of the Geological Survey (1894) (pdf)

The Physical Geology of Great Britain
A course of six lectures by Professor A. C. Ramsay (1863) (pdf)

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