Alexander Rose is celebrated by the EGS every year with a special meeting known as Fellows’ Night. Why? Because he was the inspiration for the Society’s formation and one of its founding members.
There is no record of Rose’s place of birth. However we do know he grew up in Edinburgh and followed in his father’s footsteps as a wood- and ivory-turner. He also made scientific instruments for the University of Edinburgh and is credited with inventing a seismometer. He went on to become a mineral-collector and -dealer and later a lecturer in geology and mineralogy in the former educational establishment known as the Queen’s College, Edinburgh.
A series of lectures that Rose gave on mineralogy in the early 1830s inspired eleven of his students to found, in 1834, the Geological Society, which became the Edinburgh Geological Society. One of them, John Castle, was its first president. He was succeeded in 1835 by Rose himself, in whose house, at 2 Drummond Street, the Society’s members met every Monday evening. Fellows’ Night is held on the Wednesday closest to the founding date of 4 December 1834.
Rose was EGS President for 12 years (six times the current presidential term!). He was held in such esteem that EGS members presented him with a silver cup and his students gave him a silver snuff-box. These items are still in the Society’s possession, as are the specimen cabinet and Windsor chair that he made for himself. He retired from active work in 1856 and died in 1860. After his death, interest in the Society faded, but fortunately not to the extent that EGS ceased to exist. It recovered and became the thriving Society we enjoy today.
For more information see The Edinburgh Geologist – issue 10 for an account of Rose’s life; and The Edinburgh Geologist – issue 32 for an article on the Rose silverware and furniture held by EGS.