Public talk: James Hutton in Leiden, 1749

Leiden Academy in 1763

Public talk by Bert Schuchmann: James Hutton in Leiden, 1749 – How the future founder of modern geology earned his doctorate in just a few weeks.

Tuesday 6 June 2023, 6pm at St Cecilia’s Hall, 50 Niddry Street, Edinburgh EH1 1LG

James Hutton stayed in Leiden, the Netherlands, for a few weeks in August and September 1749; a minimum of 29 days, and probably longer. This has been confirmed from original documents. Was it common to graduate in such a short period of time? How long did he really stay? Where did he live? The original house is gone. What did it look like and what happened to it? Who else lived there at the time? Where did Hutton go to during his sojourn in Leiden? Who did he meet? Finally, did Leiden have any influence on Hutton? These questions were raised and are tentatively answered.

Free event, booking required: book here

Book: James Hutton Stay in Leiden (1749)

In celebration of their 90th anniversary, the Leiden Geological Society are publishing an 86-page book in English, detailing their recent research into James Hutton’s stay in Leiden in 1749. This shows that in the 18th century there was lively diploma-tourism by numerous foreign students attracted by the fame of Leiden University. The author Bert Schuchmann also attempts to find a possible influence of the Leiden-ethos on Hutton’s subsequent intellectual development.

The book will be available to buy at the public talk on 6 June. We can also distribute it by post after the event, but it must be pre-ordered here.

Clough Medal Lecture 2022/23

On 1 February 2023, the annual Clough Medal lecture took place at the Grant Institute, Kings Buildings Campus, University of Edinburgh and also broadcast online. Mike Browne, acting President of Edinburgh Geological Society explained that Charles Thomas Clough was a distinguished BGS geologist, who in fact died after a being hit by a train near Birkhill Station on the Bo’ness to Kinneil railway in 1916. The Clough Medal was set up in 1935, and is given each year to a person who has contributed to a geologist whose original work has materially increased the knowledge of the geology of Scotland and/or the north of England, or one working in Scotland or the north of England who has significantly advanced the knowledge of any aspect of geology.

The medallist for 2022/23 was Professor Dave Evans (Department of Geography University of Durham) who gave a lecture entitled the “Quaternary glacial geology and geomorphology: application of m0dern analogues to reconstructing glaciations”.  He was presented with his medal by Mike Browne.

Dave being presented with Clough Medal 2022

A brief outline of Dave’s career was described by Jon Merritt (ex-BGS), who said that their interest in geology had both been seeded by visits to geology outcrops in Hertfordshire. He said that today, Dave was widely regarded by this peers as one of the leading Quaternary and glacial scientists in the UK and worldwide. His significant publication record of peer-reviewed papers (>200+), books (16), field guides and maps were an incredible achievement.

From his PhD and post-docs in Canada, he found himself in a position at the University of Glasgow where he stayed for 14 years. Dave was made a senior lecturer there, in the Department of Geography & Topographic Science. He has had a long association with the teaching and advancement of earth science and physical geography in Scotland.  In 2004, he moved to position of Reader at the University of Durham and became a Professor in 2011.

Dave’s considerable contribution to this research field was acknowledged in 2017 by the Royal Geographical Society when he was awarded the Busk Medal– “for excellence and originality in the study of glacial landscapes and processes and empowering the next generation”.

He has worked over the years with some greats, such as Professor Doug Benn (University of St Andrews) with whom he published the internationally renowned text book “Glaciers and Glaciation”, now in its 2nd Edition.  Dave’s research focuses on glacial geomorphology and Quaternary science, concentrating specifically on palaeoglaciology and the spatial and temporal reconstruction of former glaciers and ice sheets. His research falls into three key themes: (i) Glacial landsystems which uses his knowledge of glacial geomorphological to develop conceptual models to understand glacial process-form relationships in contemporary glacial settings in the high-arctic and mid-latitude mountain ranges. He has been successfully using this approach to reconstruct glacier margins in northern Britain and other glaciated regions around the world; (ii) Glacial sedimentology focusing on ice-marginal settings and has become one of the world’s experts in understanding of the relationships between subglacial till genesis and glacier dynamics; and (iii) Quaternary palaeoenvironments of glaciated basins.

The talk which Dave gave on the evening took us on journey through (i)-(iii) and had some spectacular drone footage of glacial features which he and his research students are working on in Iceland.  He shared the recent visualisations of the ice sheets movements across the UK & Ireland produced by the Britice-Chrono 2022 (Clarke et. Al, 2023).  Along with some beautiful images of glacial deposits from County Durham through to Strathallan (Gleneagles), near Perth and across the pond to Alberta. It is here where advances in LIDAR (accurate level measurements by satellites to resolution of 1-2m) are providing opportunities to uncover new glacial and peri-glacial features not seen before in the landscape.

The vote of thanks was given by Dr Andrew Finlayson (BGS) and who paid tribute to Dave’s expertise in the field which he said that Clough would have admired.  He thanked Dave for the way he was able to take processes happening today and use these interpret sediment sequences around the globe.  He also said that he particularly liked the idea that “Tills were not till”.  He asked for thank you from the audience present and online for the speaker and this was duly done by all.

If Fellows weren’t able to attend physically or virtually, a recording is available on our YouTube Channel.