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George William Lamplugh FRS [Geologist Extraordinaire]

The Geographical Journal Dec 1926

George William Lamplugh FRS

The Geographical Journal Dec 1926


George William Lamplugh, whose death took place on October 9, was an eminent geologist and a geographer of note. A life spent in geological field- work and in studying the effects of atmospheric erosion, especially of ice-action, enabled him to interpret the future of a landscape and to invade with more success than most that borderland between the sciences where the geologist seeks to explain the land-forms recorded by the geographer.

Born at Driffield on 8 April 1859, he was educated at private schools; but when thirteen years old moved to Bridlington, where the grand coast sections roused a natural bent for geology. He had commenced a commercial career, but, deliberately discarding the financial possibilities, decided to spend his life in scientific research. He became a professional geologist, as a member of the staff of the Geological Survey, in 1892.

He had before this made his mark. For several years he had occupied his spare time in recording the ever-changing exhibitions of the glacial deposits in the Yorkshire cliffs. His first paper appeared when he was nineteen, and in it he boldly took a view, not generally held at the time, that the marine shells contained in the drifts were no proof of submergence, but were as truly boulders as the stones with which they were mingled. He detected also relics of a fresh-water deposit, drawn out into lenticles in the boulder clay, but still containing an abundance of a freshwater shell. He inferred that the Bridlington drift had been formed by the accumulating power of a huge mass of ice, moving at one time over a soft sea bottom, at another over the silty bed of a pond, and pushing before it an increasing mass of sand and shells. At the same time he was engaged in an examination of the Specton series of strata and a comparison of it with the Scalby series of Lincolnshire. This work later on was incorporated in a joint paper with Professor Pavlov of Moscow, and became of European significance. When he joined the staff of the Geological Survey he had already proved his capability, and was at once entrusted with the geological surveying of the Isle of Man. He carried out the task in five years, dealing in a masterly manner with a mass of problems in every branch of geology, including physiography of unusual interest. His memoir on the island takes rank as a classic in modern geology. In 1901 he was placed in charge of the Irish branch of the Survey, and remained in Dublin until that branch was transferred to an Irish Department in 1905. He then took charge of the Midland and North Wales districts, and later on was engaged in the Wealden area until 1914 when he was appointed Assistant Director for England and Wales, a post which he held until his retirement in 1920. During the latter part of his official career he was engaged in collecting the records of the boreholes that were being put down in the south-east of England in search of coal. The records were unintelligible until they were interpreted by him and the fossils dealt with by his colleague, Dr Kitchin. Lamplugh missed none of the few opportunities he had of travelling. He visited the Eastern and Central States of North America, Vancouver, and Alaska, and southwards as far as New Orleans. He also visited the Grand Caņon of the Colorado and Spitsbergen, and attended British Association excursions to Vancouver, South Africa, and Australia. The excursion in South Africa was undertaken at the request of the Council of the British Association, the object being an examination of the falls and gorge of the Zambezi from a geological and physiographical point of view. The chasms into which the river plunges had been popularly supposed to be due to a rending of the Earth's crust. Molyneux, in the Geographical Journal in 1905, showed that they were the work of normal erosion. Lamplugh was able to confirm this, and to trace the formation of the chasms, gorges, and zig-zags to the action of torrents of water picking out joints and fractures in the rock. He wrote a paper on the subject in this Journal in 1908. Lamplugh became a Fellow of the Geographical Society in 1905, and served on the Council in 1912-15. He was a frequent attendant at the afternoon meetings, and often brought his wide experiences and ripe judgment to bear on the subject under discussion.

He was elected to the Geological Society in 1890, served on the Council several times, and was President in 1918-20. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1905, and served on the Council in 1914-16. He was President of Section C of the British Association in 1906, Past-President of the Yorkshire Naturalists' Union, of the Hull Geological Society, and of the Hertfordshire Natural History Society, and honorary member of several other societies. He received from the Geological Society a part of the Lyell Fund in 1891, the Bigsby Medal in 1901, and the Society's highest honour, the Woollaston Medal, in 1925. A. S. 

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Linked toGeorge William Lamplugh, FRS (Death)

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