The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.

VIII. The Literature of Science

§ 47. Murchison

Sir Roderick Impey Murchison was descended from a well-known Scottish clan living in Ross-shire. He was brought up in the army and took part in several of the engagements under Wellesley in Portugal and Moore in Galicia. He was a man of means, and having, at an early date, retired from the army, he occupied himself at first with the active sports of a country gentleman. But, his attention having been turned to science by Sir Humphry Davy, he very soon became an eager and enthusiastic geologist. At first, he especially devoted himself to the rocks of Sussex, Hants and Surrey. Later, he explored the volcanic regions of Auvergne and other parts of France, and of Italy, the Tyrol and Switzerland, and, together with Sedgwick, published much on the geology of the Alps. But it was not till 1831 that Murchison began his real life’s work, which was a definite enquiry into the stratification of the rocks on the border of Wales. The result of his labours, published in 1839, was the establishment of the Silurian system and the record of strata older than and different from any that had hitherto been described in these islands. In 1837, he and Sedgwick, by their work in the south-west of England and the Rhineland, established the Devonian system; and, in 1840, he extended his investigations from Germany to Russia. In the following year, at the desire of the Tsar, he travelled over a considerable part of that country as far as the Ural mountains on the east and the sea of Azov on the south. In 1855, he was appointed director general of the geological survey and director of the museum in Jermyn street, in both of which posts he succeeded Sir Henry de la Beche. Towards the end of his life, he founded a chair of geology and mineralogy at Edinburgh.