5 Keepers of the Museum

For a movement intent on making collections a physical manifestation of science, one component in a society’s social structure was perhaps more important than any other. This was the provision made for the curation of the collection. Despite their corporate identity, philosophical societies were still amateur organisations; they had no more expertise in collection building than the curiosity-driven gentlemen collectors they so often derided. Contemporary, and rather stereotypical, views of the collection pictured an assemblage of unrelated objects, collected without direction and displayed without order or reason. Considerable curatorial input was required to turn collections into a resource for self-improvement through research, education and discourse. There were, of course, models of the scientific fossil collection for these societies to follow. However, these were ordered taxonomically or geographically and not stratigraphically. It was the achievement of the latter which was to prove so fundamental to the progress of geology in this period.[1] As John Farey had explained, ‘A geological collection of specimens must differ materially from a collection of minerals. For the mineralogist, a simple specimen of each mineral substance is sufficient’. The geologist who was to use the collection as a means of correlation required more than this: ‘a fossil shell, petrifaction, or mineral is useless to the geologist, unless it be accompanied with a proper description of the stratum, and of the exact place from whence it was obtained: hence it is necessary that a descriptive catalogue should always accompany a collection of geological specimens.’[2]

Initially, the societies satisfied their curatorial needs with honorary curatorships occupied by some of the keener members who oversaw collection development in specific areas. However, despite their initial enthusiasm, they possessed neither the specialist knowledge nor the time to meet the needs of a rapidly expanding collection. Henry Jelly, one of Phillips’s earliest friends, who like him had been orphaned and brought under the nurturing wing of Benjamin Richardson, witnessed the growth of the Bristol Institution. He knew that ‘A few hours a day will suffice to keep a museum, already collected and arranged, in sufficient order’ – but this situation did not prevail in the philosophical institutions for many years, if ever. He warned that ‘no one, who has not experienced it, can form an adequate conception of the labour of reducing into system and method the chaos of a newly-established museum, into which contributions are unceasingly flowing, and where there is as yet no adequate provision made for placing them away.’[3]

Such a burdensome undertaking was not one for members or shareholders desiring intellectual pursuits or a cultured posture. It soon became apparent that curatorship was as much drudgery as scientific connoisseurship, and that such toil was better delegated. Soon every society desired a paid curator though few could really afford the costs entailed. These new curators formed a new breed of career geologist rooted in an academically and intellectually focused science. An earlier model of this kind of geological ‘professional’ was perhaps exemplified by William Smith who derived an income from the commercial exploitation of geological knowledge in agricultural and engineering works.[4]Smith had also used his peculiar knowledge to organise the collections of others. Phillips was not alone in rising from this class of practical men into the professional fringes of gentlemanly science. Occupied purely in science, provincial curators might seem the equivalents of the new geological academics in Oxford, Cambridge and London but they were not. Their role was principally to serve others and to do so for a paltry salary. They had little status, no security of position or assurance of progression, and many apparently viewed the role of curator as a kind of servitude. Some were happy with the indulgence in science such positions would bring. Others used curatorship as means to show themselves and to scale an emerging career ladder in science. But many found this vision of a future career to be no more than a mirage.

The exception of Phillips

In the early years of the Yorkshire Philosophical Society, buoyed up by the novelty of their mission, honorary curators took every opportunity to become well-versed in acquisition, identification and curation. They saw only the potential of the museum and none of its problems. Vernon again made use of his former Oxford associates. Conybeare was now involved in similar developments at the Bristol Institution[5] and Buckland, who was to advise on collection storage and organisation, was by 1821 in possession of a considerable geological museum at Oxford. Buckland’s ‘museum’ had been established twenty years earlier and grew considerably following his election as fellow of his college in 1809; as a student, Vernon had probably known it well. He and his fellow York philosophers also drew on their experiences of other public and private collections. Phillips, for example, later visited and reported on Gideon Mantell’s museum and both he and William Marshall brought back reports of museums on the continent.[6]

In late spring 1823, Vernon visited London’s major scientific institutions, gleaning details of best practice. At the Royal Institution, geological collections were displayed on steeply angled shelves, each specimen slotted into its own partition. Each shelf had been cut to the width of the doors, enabling their rapid removal from the cabinet during rearrangement or to accommodate larger specimens. The Institution had constructed the cabinets out of cheap wood, applying an oak stain to hide the economy. Such information could save the York men considerable expense. 

Vernon also discovered the steps being taken to minimise the effects of pollution on collections, the agent then seen as most damaging to collection integrity. Urban pollution was another factor encouraging countryside pursuits but inevitably the results of such activities were liable to ruin in the atmosphere of the city museum. In Vernon’s opinion York was hardly less polluted than London. He learned from Michael Faraday, at the Royal Institution, and Thomas Webster, Keeper at the Geological Society, that cabinets required careful construction, with the inclusion of a fabric gasket, if smoke dust was to be excluded. Faraday was, at this time, pioneering research into the effects of atmospheric gases on museum specimens, his interest in eradicating such problems no doubt resulted from the considerable amount of time he spent cleaning the institution’s mineral collections. This perhaps typified the peculiar mix of the intellectual and the mundane embraced by curatorship.

In Faraday, Vernon would also have seen a perfect model of the peculiar kind of individual his society needed to turn its operation into something more than a social gathering. Similarly in Webster he would find stratigraphic and artistic attributes which the York men might also like to capture in their own ‘geological society’.

The excitement of planning and developing a museum had not prepared the honorary curators for the apparently endless and rather mundane tasks of curation. The problem was exacerbated by a lack of information and experience. But curation was not a task that could be neglected. An institution’s scientific status relied upon order; indeed the order of a collection was itself a statement of scientific knowledge and understanding. Without this their museum would never surpass the low standards of the private collector; part-time curators, temporary rooms and rapid acquisition could only result in chaos. Increased space alone would help little, for the hobbyist curator still needed to deal with backlogs, maintenance and revision. Without hard-won knowledge acquired from the field and from other collections, the society’s officers had little chance of identifying, and stratigraphically localising, finds. And with every specimen accessible in drawers, if not on display, it was impossible for a philosophical institution to hide its curatorial inadequacies. There were always jealous intriguers nearby willing to expose a farce. Such a fate regularly befell the British Museum in this period where, for example, its display cases of disorganised fossils remained hidden beneath brown paper to, unsuccessfully, save the museum’s embarrassment.[7] For a philosophical society the consequences of curatorial failure were far greater: members would be unable to expound with any confidence on subjects covered by the collection and the value of the whole institution would be put into question.

The inadequate curatorial powers of the York amateurs, and a possible solution to the problem, became increasingly apparent with the arrival of Smith and Phillips in February 1824. Uniquely equipped to curate geological collections and apparently keen to sell their services, the two men were seen as a godsend by the emerging societies. Smith, however, now in his mid 50s, had no wish to become a curatorial servant. Phillips, on the other hand, was a suitably deferential 23-year-old who had outgrown the role of indebted nephew and junior assistant. He had hidden within him great scientific ambition and a strong desire to prove himself; though never boastful he could not be immune to the favourable comments his talents attracted.[8] Bright and eloquent, equipped with a penchant for ancient and modern languages and with a good knowledge of the pure sciences, he seemed more than ‘a practical man’.[9] He was a great contrast to his guardian who had received none of the opportunities he had given his nephew. Working in Richardson’s cabinet Phillips had gained an insight into the geological literature and fossil systematics. And, most importantly, his education had been further supplemented by the ideas which Smith had formulated, and was continuing to develop – a process in which Phillips had no small part. Here Smith had evolved an entirely new strand to the function of museums in the construction of knowledge. For it was as much in his collection where fossils could be manipulated and compared, as in their true field context, that his method was established and rocks were subsequently ordered. In May 1804, for example, his collection had been arranged in small boxes on the floor of his house in the order of the strata, a flexible approach which permits change.[10] The curatorial skills which Smith had developed out of necessity continued to transform the science in the coming decades. In its use of fossils, geology was to become as much a science of the museum as it was of the field. 

It was only in 1816, when Smith was forced by financial difficulties to sell his collection to the British Museum, that its arrangement was taken to perfection. Being an itinerant worker for much of his life, Smith had maintained his collection as a working document; not as a work of reference but constantly in change and regularly deriving new relationships. The British Museum accepted the collection on condition that it be organised stratigraphically in illustration of Smithian principles. Much of the work of sorting out the collection was given to the 14-year-old Phillips; as in fossil collecting, there was also a role for delegation in curation. Utilising Phillips’s newly acquired linguistic and zoological knowledge to decipher texts lent by Sir Joseph Banks, it took them five months to curate the collection to a standard in advance of any then in Britain. Smith’s stratigraphic arrangement had been enhanced by the full identification of fossil species and a secondary zoological arrangement; each specimen was annotated with a system of codes indicating genus (a capital letter), species (a numeral) and locality (a lower case letter). This arrangement was certainly an improvement on that at the Geological Society which started organising its fossils stratigraphically in 1813 but took many years to even approach completeness. Smith was convinced that the combination of stratigraphic and systematic arrangement had never previously been attempted and was ‘entirely new’.[11]

To the young Phillips the task had been a chore grudgingly carried out, but one which would mould his future life and ultimately take him from vagrant surveyor’s assistant to an Oxford professorship. Such curatorial tricks, when repeated on the collections of the Yorkshire societies nearly a decade later, were met with great excitement. In the intervening years, Phillips lived and breathed the field geology of England as Smith’s assistant.[12] The movement of the collection into the public, if rather exclusive, realm of the British Museum was the transfer of a commercial asset – not simply in terms of material investment but as a tool of commercial importance to Smith’s business. However, the knowledge which that collection embodied was, through this intensive period of curatorial work, transferred from the material realm of Smith’s cabinet to the cognitive realm in the minds of Smith and particularly Phillips. They were now better able to utilise their stratigraphic skills in the work that lay ahead. 

With their transition to itinerant lecturers in 1824, the two often found themselves advising local societies on curatorial matters. Thus early in that year, Phillips organised the geological collections in York, and consequently both men were permitted to use specimens from these collections in their lecture programme across Yorkshire. Access to these collections and close liaison with an organisation committed to countywide geology could only benefit their commercial ventures. In return the York men found Smith a useful geological ally, deserving patronage and perhaps most likely to help them achieve their research goal; it took them slightly longer to distinguish the young Phillips’s superior philosophical attributes. For a fee of £20, Phillips had transformed the chaos of the York geological collection into a stratigraphically arranged assemblage of specimens, each labelled with its scientific name and locality. This metamorphosis rendered the collections as a whole ‘a very instructive school to the student’ but ‘in the Fossil Department … a very compendious and useful account of the local strata to the experienced geologist.’ In these early years, income from the lectures of Smith, Phillips and others was also channelled into collection care, particularly for the purchase of cabinets. When Phillips was later appointed curator this money was given to him to supplement his low wage.[13]

It was not long before the York philosophers sought to bring Phillips permanently into the fold. Given his keenness to pursue a career in science, they knew his talents could probably be acquired cheaply.  In 1826 the post of Keeper of the Museum and Draughtsman was created specifically for him. According to Vernon the society’s affairs now required constant attention, more ‘than the spare time … its unsalaried officers can possibly afford.’ However, funding such an appointment proved problematic, as much in York as in any of the other societies. Income from membership and lecture fees was not sufficient, and in Phillips’s case half of his £60 salary had to be met from private subscriptions. This was sufficient to pay for his part-time attachment to the museum only: three days a week, 10 am to 4 pm, for nine months each year. By comparison Smith received £60 (a £50 fee with a £10 bonus due to their success) for the eight lectures he gave in 1824, and £50 in Hull; Phillips had been able to request this same level of payment as a lecturer. A short while later the York society asked Phillips to deliver a course of six lectures for £20, and at the same time asked itinerant lecturer John Murray to provide a series for £40. The relationship had changed: Phillips as an employee was now at the behest of his new masters. However, he was not happy with the fee offered, refusing it and suggesting that £40 for a course of eight was more acceptable. Once the lecture course had been written and delivered he could then, on his days off, also deliver it to other societies in the region with no further labour required. With a willing audience, this was undoubtedly a particularly profitable line of work – William Williamson later used it to pay for his first year at medical school.[14] As for Phillips’s salary, in an age of long working hours, it was equivalent to more than £200 per annum in pro rata terms (a good professional salary), but such equivalence meant little unless the full amount was received. However, with lecture engagements and a little other work he did manage to achieve this level of income in most years. But the York philosophers perhaps knew that he would devote more time to its goals than his contract dictated.

Phillips revelled in the opportunities now open to him but was also aware that these were men with whom he had little social affinity: ‘much my superiors in abilities and greatly my superiors in station’.[15] He saw this as an opportunity to pursue science as a livelihood, an adventure that would remove him from an inherited career path and give him financial independence. The process of social adjustment to his role in this new gentlemen’s society was not easy. He was, despite his advanced philosophical attributes, still a paid servant under the direct patronage of the society and particularly Vernon and a few other members. In a short time their admiration for his talents burgeoned and he achieved widespread recognition, ultimately becoming the York society’s most important scientific asset. He also made many new friends. But all this was to come. In the early years he was often frustrated by his curatorial role and sank into periods of melancholy, fearing that his destiny might so easily be thwarted.[16]

He began working as keeper on 9 February 1826, nearly two years after he had first arranged the society’s collections. In the intervening period much had been added without any apparent sense of order or annotation. The labels on those specimens he had previously arranged were now out of date or had deteriorated. Complete revision was the only proper course of action. Where specimens lacked a locality, he set them aside in the hope of interrogating donors. Large groups of fossils from the same formation, such as the Mountain Limestone, were arranged geographically. The term ‘series’ grew into common local use at this time, to describe a suite of fossils and rocks from successive strata which could be unified under a stratigraphic or geographical banner. Each series – such as that donated by Lyell from the Paris Basin – was organised and displayed as a discrete unit.[17]

By the end of his first year in post, the society’s council was in no doubt that Phillips was as fundamental to their status and objectives as any assemblage of objects. They contended that the donors – most of whom were members and aware of the true nature of society affairs – had a right to demand that their objects be made more instructive than they could if left in private hands: ‘a condition too often very little attended to, or, from a want of regular arrangement, very imperfectly fulfilled’. In York this intention had been established from the outset. The process of ‘entering donations on the inventories of the Museum, and classing them on its shelves, has saved it from the embarrassment of a useless heap of undistinguished specimens.’[18] The task, however, had taken on an entirely new meaning, and level of achievement, with the appointment of Phillips.

Perhaps more importantly, the society’s members could now abandon the chores of the museum to the keeper, a post this society would attempt to maintain even during severe financial difficulties. There is no doubt that Phillips was a servant but his involvement in the York society opened up a world of scientific contact and exchange that would change the course of his life. On looking back much later, with his geological career well established, he could barely see the importance of the opportunity the Yorkshire Philosophical Society had given him. He viewed the past with a personalised ahistoricism having forgotten the shackles which constrained personal and scientific development in the 1820s. In his retrospective view, paid curatorship had undermined local science. The membership no longer directed their attentions to the duties demanded by the collection but rather were drawn by other pressing engagements: ‘a salaried curator is appointed and nearly all the work of the society is entrusted to him, often with insufficient remuneration, and little help or encouragement to augment his knowledge or resources. Such institutions usually decline; fall asleep; are forgotten.’ His experience had taught him that, in the presence of a paid keeper, members soon showed ‘a gentle acquiescence in growing indifferent to real study, and an upspringing demand for something more amusing, exciting or fashionable’, leaving the keeper frustrated and overworked.[19] Phillips developed a great personal distaste for museum work, or rather that type of museum work which was solely for the benefit of others. He remained, however, infatuated with the science which could be drawn from museum objects and to his last utilised his extraordinary curatorial skills to benefit his own programme of research and publication.

When Phillips resigned from the keepership in 1840 he recommended that he not be replaced; the society should instead use this as an opportunity to encourage greater participation by the membership in the workings of the museum. The society’s council knew that such a system would not work. They did not want to place these labours upon their own shoulders, especially as the establishment of a paying precedent now gave the function of curator overtones of servility. However, pressing financial difficulties arising from the society’s property deals meant that a successor to Phillips could not be appointed for a further three years.[20] When the debt was cleared, Edward Charlesworth, in many ways the perfect antithesis of Phillips, was appointed to succeed him. 

While Phillips would always keep one foot in York and derived great benefits from the stimulus of the society, he had derived as much from the free time it had given him for his own pursuit of knowledge, strata, the wild outdoors, and writing and lecturing. By his twenty-ninth birthday he had established himself as a master in all these fields, and as he emerged through the barrier of subservience into the gentleman’s world of geology so he found other patrons and rapidly became a mainstay to the geological establishment.

The Geological Society’s attrition of spirit

York was not alone in supporting the development of this new geological profession; geologists appear to have been appointed to the majority of philosophical society curatorships. How they functioned in these posts, and the progress they made, was determined by their character and ability, their education and experience, the liberality and resources of the employing institution, the availability of opportunities, and the patronage or notice of men of distinction in science. A few of the most able, particularly those with well-honed fossil identification skills, were snapped up from their provincial nests and enthroned in the expanding national institutions.[21]

William Lonsdale, six years Phillips’s elder, is a good example of the rising curator thrust into what was principally the ‘service industry’ of taxonomic palaeontology then associated with curatorship. He had become curator of the Bath Institution in 1825, which Phillips visited near the end of Lonsdale’s reign in 1829. As he noted in his diary, ‘Lonsdale has worked very hard at the Bath Institution and put their miniature museum in good order and has succeeded pretty well.’ From this ‘miniature museum’ Lonsdale was transported to the most influential geological museum in Britain – that of the Geological Society in London. Like Phillips, his impact on both collections and members was immediate. The collection now began to take on proper stratigraphic shape and descriptive labels were attached to individual specimens to replace inadequate drawer catalogues. With order achieved, Lonsdale also produced a ‘wants list’ to which it was hoped provincial institutions would contribute.[22]

Lonsdale received a salary of £200 for his full-time devotion to the task. In practice, the new curator also devoted his leisure hours and vacation to the society’s collections with unfortunate consequences. The committee reporting on the collection in 1832 recommended that steps be taken to prevent further encroachment on the curator’s time for the sake of the institution and the curator’s health. By 1836, Lonsdale’s health was suffering badly and he was relieved of his curatorial duties and left to concentrate on the library and publication. In 1842 he finally resigned his duties and moved to Devon, telling everyone he had ‘gone away to die’. Concerned fellows of the society hastily made a collection, raising in excess of £600. Phillips had little doubt he would recover – which he did, dying at the age of 77, some 29 years later. That Lonsdale’s health should have deteriorated became all too apparent to his successor, Edward Forbes, who complained of the ‘unreasonableness of geologists in the society of occupying time’; he felt little more than a servant. Forbes became the first of a succession of fairly short-lived curators who soon moved on.[23]

Lonsdale’s predecessor was the increasingly tetchy Thomas Webster who took up the post in June 1812 on a salary of £100 per year for three days a week, having worked at the Royal Institution a decade earlier (and been sacked). Webster had long been ‘a professional man dependent only upon his own exertions for the means of existence’. In the post-war atmosphere of cross-channel collaboration, he had hoped to take his Isle of Wight paper forward but found little support in the factional atmosphere of the society. Having begun as an ordinary member, with the freedoms which that implied, he was now, despite having been promised time for his own projects in the original arrangements, a servant whose time was under the control of others. The games of compromise and diplomacy appear not to have come easily to Webster and as a result he stood outside the powerful faction which ran society affairs, the prey of intriguers. Webster was bitter – ‘I have got among a bad lot’, a ‘contemptible faction’. But it was not simply within the society that he felt attacked. His work on the Isle of Wight was also being disassembled by subsequent workers and Webster, who had already entered middle age when it had been published, had little opportunity to take the subject forward himself. He remained something of a society clerk, trapped in trifling duties which Fitton thought a shameful waste of scientific talent.[24]

When Fitton was replaced as society secretary by ‘a Mr Lyell, a young man without experience’, the new man sided with Webster’s opponents. Lyell understood the power base of the society and where it was necessary to place allegiances. However, his lack of effort in his duties placed an even greater burden on Webster. All the while others were claiming his discoveries, and it became an important pastime for him to assert his priority. As he later told Buckland, discoveries were vital to the reputation of a man who needed to earn an income from science.[25]

There is no doubt that Webster’s time as curator of the society’s museum had been traumatic, causing illness and paranoia. He left the post in July 1827 having been blamed, whether fairly or not, in a clerk’s abscondence with £63; the society recovered half of the lost amount from Webster’s meagre income. Later that year a remodelled post of curator was advertised. It offered twice Webster’s salary and involved the more intellectual duties of identification and organisation. When he was not appointed to this position he could hardly have been surprised. He now had to seek an income in other ways, receiving a government pension of £50 a year from 1841 and in that same year being appointed to the Chair of Geology at University College, London, and dying a few years later in relative poverty.[26]

Webster was always, so it seems, pursued by enemies but in November 1838, in his absence, the Geological Society bore testimony to the merits and the discoveries of his Isle of Wight work to resounding applause. The monument he had fought his whole life to preserve, against those who had rewritten history, intentionally or otherwise, or shackled him in a position of servility, had at last been secured. As Edward Brayley told him ‘it clearly proves that whatever selfish endeavours may have been made to “shelf you” like a worn out fossil, they have most signally failed of success’.[27]

Bristol’s slavery

Lonsdale’s premonition of death had saved him, but the same was not true for Johann Miller. As his obituarist lamented, ‘We come now to a period in the life of this eminent naturalist to which it is impossible to concur without feelings of deep regret and sorrow: I mean his appointment to the office of Curator of the Bristol Institution, which took place early in 1824.’[28] Not of strong constitution, yet unceasingly active and with a rapid mind and tongue, Miller’s health began to give way within three years of his appointment. 

Johann Samuel Miller had, like Lonsdale, been selected for higher service. In 1821, Buckland had led a failed attempt to have him installed as the natural replacement for William Leach, a curator at the British Museum whose mental health had gone into rapid decline through overwork.[29] Buckland had been impressed by Miller’s Natural History of the Crinoidea, published earlier that year, and together with Conybeare and the Dean of Bristol lobbied the Archbishop of Canterbury who controlled the appointment. This petitioning, however, failed and it was a few more years before Miller found a permanent position. He was, however, soon engaged for six months in Oxford curating Buckland’s collection. In his spare time here he absorbed all he could from the library and collection, and rapidly developed considerable knowledge. Murchison later described him as a man of ‘penetrating skill and incomparable collections’. Finally he joined the Bristol Institution as its curator supported by testimonials from Conybeare, Robert Jameson, Buckland and Sedgwick. His salary was £150 per year, rising to £180 in the last two years of his life.[30]

Born Johann Müller, of Prussian mercantile parentage, he was deprived of his inheritance by the French wars which destroyed the family firm. His interest in natural history had been inspired by an early meeting with Leach and had for a while centred on insects but subsequently extended to all manner of natural phenomena. Miller’s work on fossil crinoids, however, had created an enemy in fellow Bristol man, George Cumberland. As Buckland told Greenough in 1817, ‘He is at work like Cumberland upon encrinites and understands their anatomy infinitely better than he. In fact he is thoroughly master of it, which Cumberland is not. Unhappily they are jealous of each other – almost at war.’ After the publication of Miller’s book, every kind of criticism had been thrown at it, particularly by Cumberland, ‘stimulated as they were by something less pure than simple zeal for science’. Having given away one hundred copies, Miller was sure not to make a profit. But as much as it was criticised for its artwork it was celebrated for its system of classification which for a while stood the test of subsequent discovery. Cumberland’s own work, Reliquiae Conservatae, was published in 1826.[31]

In 1829, not long before Miller’s death, Phillips viewed both his collection and that of the institution for which he worked. The Bristol Institution’s fossil collections were ‘few and fine’ but in some areas, particularly crinoidea, Miller had finer. His collection included a fine suite of crinoids and other local fossils glued on small rectangular card-covered boards with the expectation that he would identify and label them. But in this fundamental task, and to Phillips’s amazement, he had made little progress either for himself or in the collections of his employers. ‘Is it because his time is so excessively engrossed? or what other additional reason forbids?’ Without such information the collection was useless, as Miller had understood only too well a year earlier. Ever concerned for the well-being of his family and having recently recovered from a severe illness, he feared that the collection he would one day leave behind would be of little value to them without a catalogue, and thus he used every spare moment to complete one.[32] It is likely that Miller was thinking about the potential financial value of the collection – sale was an almost inevitable fate for most collections after the death of their owners. 

The ceaseless lifestyle which left him little time to curate his collection ultimately killed him. Phillips was not the only one to remark upon it:

Miller’s mode of life is uncommon. Breakfast at 8. To the Institution at 10. Remains there till 9 at night. Dines at 10 [in the ] evening. Takes chocolate at 1 coffee at 5. Rooms open from 10 to 4. He shows all, keeps the keys & c. Is a slave to the institution and therefore in my opinion does not care two-pence about it. He buys for himself but is not allowed (or does not allow himself?) to purchase for the Society. Hence the two interests are rivals.[33]

Jelly thought Miller ‘doomed’ to ‘misery and degradation’ by being obliged to undertake tasks ‘for which any decently-behaved youth might have been made competent in a month’.[34] Miller certainly felt little attachment to his present occupation and no respect for his superiors – ‘there are few people of zeal and intelligence conjoined in Bristol.’ As he told Phillips: ‘Mr P, the value of all these things is exactly proportioned to the zeal of the curator – at first bustle, then indifference – all depends on one, two or three men of influence who can carry things as they like.’

Miller died in 1830. His important collection was then purchased by the institution for £730. On the day of his death, Cumberland, knowing that Miller was now in ‘deep decline’, made attempts to get his correspondent, Thomas Webster, to fill the soon to be vacant post. He wrote again the next day: ‘Mr Miller died yesterday and never suspected he was in danger until 2 days before – of course the road is now open if you choose to apply.’ Such positions were so rare and desirable that appointments were often pursued immediately on the death of the incumbent.[35]

Jelly recognised that Miller had achieved the signal rewards of the fashion for science: ‘The aspirations of the Naturalist after fame have, indeed, (under all the disadvantages with which he had to contend) been gratified’. But whether these had been worth the cost, Jelly had grave doubts, ‘I am afraid the hope of profit from his labours never received their completion. He had to the last, to struggle with limited means against neglect and indifference; and his family have little to be grateful for, even towards those who profited the most extensively by his arduous exertions.’ Jelly was in no doubt that the institution had deprived him of a quarter of his working life.[36]

Miller was not followed by Webster, but by Samuel Stutchbury, an experienced and travelled all-round naturalist who was much more successful in pursuing a career in science. Ultimately he would be recruited by De la Beche for a geological survey of New South Wales.[37]

Emulating Phillips

In 1837, Whitby Literary and Philosophical Society, ever keen to compete with its neighbours, found sufficient funds to appoint its own lecturer and keeper. The natural choice was Martin Simpson, a native of Whitby who, like Young, had been educated at Edinburgh University. In the previous year he had been appointed second master at Wakefield Grammar School, having also been active as an accomplished itinerant lecturer in geology and astronomy. Just a month older than Phillips, he surely wished to rise out of Yorkshire in similar fashion. But Simpson’s career was the very antithesis of Phillips’s, Whitby was not to be a springboard but an enclosure. Not that his services could be sustained for long. Even on a salary of just £20 a year the society could not afford to maintain the appointment and in 1841 it was, with regret, terminated: ‘services at no previous period more indispensable than at the present, and such as no other member of the Society could have leisure to render, and few only the ability and patience so to do’.[38]

The following year this ‘short man with a very big umbrella’ donated 1,800 fossils to the society. A society ever aware of the financial value of fossils recognised these as being greatly above the value of 10 guineas, and they thus qualified him as a life governor through payment in kind. The society did everything it could to keep Simpson within its circle. However, he soon found an appointment at the museum of the Yorkshire Geological and Polytechnic Society in Wakefield, but this turned out to be another ephemeral contract, lasting just fifteen months. The council of that society believed that the rewards were not worth the outlay. As one member put it: ‘the museum at Wakefield appears to me to be nearly a useless expense’; it was too out of the way for a membership spread across the West Riding. On Simpson’s departure the museum was incorporated into the collections of the Leeds society.[39]

While in Wakefield Simpson finally published his much-delayed monograph on ammonites, which lacked plates due to the expense of having them engraved. Unlike Phillips and William Williamson, Simpson had little talent as an artist. Following the loss of his inheritance through the failure of a local bank, Simpson returned to Whitby where he gave his time freely as curator for the next 20 years, before being given a ‘salary’ of £10 per year. However, the difficulties of the curator extended beyond mere salary. They were revealed in a series of three lectures on George Young which Simpson arranged to give to the society in 1862. The first lecture, however, proved so scathing of Young that the other two were cancelled. They reveal that Simpson and Young had been good friends when Simpson had been working elsewhere. Indeed for 25 years they could claim ‘close intimacy and correspondence’. But as soon as he returned to Whitby cracks appeared in their relationship especially when Simpson became keeper. The problems arose not least from their differing scientific opinions. To Simpson, they were ‘little differences of opinion’; for Young, criticism of his geology was also criticism of his religious beliefs. In Simpson’s analysis Young was a man of few personal friends, who found it difficult to express his feelings, and who became increasingly isolated in later life. Though a man of deep passion he appeared ‘cold and unfeeling’, and in consequence his intentions were often misunderstood, resulting in animosity. His anger, Simpson recalled, was of ‘the coldest and most relentless character’.

John Bird died feeling he had been deeply injured by Young, his greatest friend. As Simpson recalled:

Between these two, there existed a friendship, which one would have thought could never have been broken, except by death. Their intimacy was of long continuance, their tastes were similar, they constantly met together in their private apartments, they had traversed the district together in geological and antiquarian pursuits, they had eaten their crust together upon the solitary moor, under the open canopy of heaven; taken shelter in the same hut, or under the same rock, whilst the thunder rolled majestic over their heads; explored together the sweet and endearing vallies, or contemplated the sublime emotions, from the craggy cliff, the vast expanse of the ever restless and ever sounding ocean; they have endured together the toils, and divided the hard earned profits of their labours; but after all this, the silver cord of friendship snapped asunder …[40]

The rift developed during completion of the second edition of their Geological Survey of the Yorkshire Coast through, so Young claimed, Bird’s ‘neglect in getting forward the plates’. Simpson remarked that the very act of forming a museum – Bird had been honorary curator – ‘and other literary and scientific operations’ provided sufficient materials for dispute. It seems likely that Young’s conservative and polarised views on geology were at the heart of these disputes. Simpson went on: ‘from what I know of Dr Young’s manner, when once a breach was made in their friendship, it could never be healed’. And so it was between Young and Simpson to a point where they exchanged letters agreeing to part company, but in the end maintained a relationship of cold civility. No doubt recalling his own position Simpson remarked that while Young was not vain he was ‘exceedingly jealous and intolerant’ of rivals: ‘those associated with him often complained that they were reduced to mere cyphers.’ While admitting Young had many admirable qualities, Simpson preferred ‘impartial criticism’ to ‘the language of panegyric’. The lecture had been an opportunity to redress the balance.

Pursuing his fieldwork with a passion and at the highest resolution, Simpson continued to write about Whitby geology and no doubt enjoyed himself immensely, but he achieved little more than local celebrity. He also worked on plans for a new museum but this too failed to gain support. Having supplemented his income with the sale of fossils to tourists, he died at the age of 92, ‘poor, lonely and embittered’.[41]

Scarborough Literary and Philosophical Society had unsuccessfully attempted to poach Simpson from Whitby in 1848 at a minimum salary of £10 with free accommodation in the museum, as well as free lighting and fuel. This was to replace the ageing John Williamson. Williamson had been curator of the museum since its inception, on a salary of just £30, with an additional £10 paid to his wife when she was appointed his assistant in 1838. These funds were raised, in part at least, from door receipts.[42]

By trade Williamson had been a market gardener having ‘enjoyed no educational advantages’. The one attribute which made him appropriate to the post of Keeper, other than the bribe of his collection, was that he was an active collector. This became particularly useful during the late 1830s when the society came into increasing financial difficulties and relied upon Williamson to collect fossils for the purposes of sale and exchange. He also built up the museum’s collections of insects, birds, eggs and plants. Indeed what remains of his fragmentary diary shows a passionate participant, one day collecting fossils at Gristhorpe, the next shooting birds or stuffing them, then ‘dressing’ fossils, and perhaps off to Whitby’s hinterland with basket and hammers to raid the cliffs for fossil reptiles. In this he was always in the company of that clique of members keen to get into the field: his son William, Peter Murray, John Rowntree and Isaac Stickney. Like other museums, Scarborough had a set of honorary curators (one each for geology, entomology, zoology and antiquities) who were particularly keen. Despite his minimal salary Williamson was obviously in his element and any drudgery he experienced was more than countered by the excitement of the field.[43]

After a financial crisis in 1848, Williamson was kept on as an assistant to a committee responsible for the museum and paid £20 per annum for his time three days per week. As the future of the institution became an increasing cause for concern, he intimated that some specimens in the museum were his own and not the society’s. In practice, it would have been difficult to determine what material arising from his collecting belonged to the society and what to himself. As a result he was asked to produce a catalogue of the positions of his specimens. It was at this time that the society sought a replacement for him, and approached Simpson offering a ridiculously low salary, knowing the impoverished state of his affairs. Simpson, who was committed to Whitby, rejected the offer outright.

Approaching seventy years of age, Williamson finally tendered his resignation in 1853. When he had been active, he knew his salary was inadequate recompense for his efforts, ‘but the labour was one of love, I rejoiced in the growing prosperity of the museum’.  His wife had returned to her trade as milliner and dressmaker. Establishing a staff of youngsters to help her, she did much to supplement the family income. They had also inherited £100 which enabled the purchase of a lodging house. With the coming of the railway another small plot of land Williamson had acquired was then bought by the railway company for what his son recalls as being £1150. But this Williamson lost through an unwise investment in shipping. As curator, his efforts had, he felt, been ‘great’ but he also saw them as ‘enduring’. On his resignation, the society awarded him an annual pension of £10. He was to live on well into his nineties continuously active in the new horticultural society, sea-fishing and so on. When he could no longer be active himself, he satisfied himself with reading travellers’ tales. Even with only one good eye – use of the other had been lost in youth through an attack of smallpox – this had long been a keen interest.[44]In his unceasing activity and generally positive outlook he had much in common with his friend Smith.

When John Williamson’s Scarborough curatorship became vacant, Phillips advised Johnstone to appoint a caretaker to keep the collections clean and secure, allowing a man of science to visit occasionally to advise.[45] Johnstone tried to put the plan into action suggesting that ‘a woman might even suffice for the job’. Murchison, who was also consulted, suggested that the curator should also be able to point out the most remarkable fossils.

While John Williamson derived few material benefits from his dedication to the Scarborough society, his son, William, born in 1816, was exposed to the full impact of the philosophical movement during its most active years. He had met and knew Murchison, Smith, Phillips, and others who were attracted to Scarborough by his father’s collections. Though Williamson was less silver-tongued than Phillips, their careers bear great similarities. The young Williamson also went through the drudgery of identifying a collection. In his case, it was his father’s. He was 12 years old and the text he used to accomplish it was Phillips’s coastal monograph. Like Phillips, when he worked on Smith’s collection in preparation for its sale, Williamson also hated the work but emerged from it a gifted geologist and skilled artist. At the age of 19, he was appointed curator to the natural history society in Manchester on a salary of £110 per annum, and from there, like Phillips, rose to a university professorship. That he achieved this was the more remarkable because, as he later admitted, the natural history society for whom he became keeper was split into two hostile camps, one supporting the curatorship, the other against it. ‘If, before my acceptance of the curatorship of the Manchester Museum I had known all I subsequently learned, I should certainly have shrunk from taking the step.’[46] At Manchester’s sister natural history society in Newcastle, its curator William King also found himself in difficulties. After seven years in post, on a salary of £100, his contract was terminated for his refusal to abide by its conditions.[47]

The Hull society’s honorary curator, William Hey Dikes, like his paid counterpart in Scarborough, was essentially looking after material he had formerly owned himself. Dikes, however, was also like other honorary curators elsewhere in having little time to devote to curation. Chaotic storage conditions made the task difficult but the problem of curation was partly resolved using Phillips, and the young William Williamson, to bring the collections up to scratch and then delegating maintenance work to a team of honorary curators. For the Hull men the situation was exacerbated by the want of books on natural history. With their lavish illustrations these books tended to be too expensive for societies to purchase or members to donate; in its first five years the society had received none. The consequences for the curator and ordinary member was much the same: ‘Deprived of access to these sources of information also, he has no alternative but to remain a mere collector, unacquainted with the affinities and nature of the specimens which have excited his attention and curiosity.’[48]

In June 1832, the state of the collection was a cause of concern. A series of extraordinary general meetings were held to resolve the matter. The report of the meeting attempted to reassure members that the situation was not as bad as expected but nevertheless required a complete rethinking of the society’s curatorial commitment. On 1 October 1832, Dikes’s post was abolished and a paid curator appointed at a cost of no more than £60 per annum. Thomas John Pearsall, a chemical assistant from the Royal Institution in London, was, for six hours a day, four days a week, nine months a year, ‘to devote himself to scientific pursuits’. The appointment was obviously in imitation of Phillips’s original terms and the York society’s high scientific objectives.[49] His efforts were to be overseen by a team of eight honorary curators drawn from the membership and each focused on a particular aspect of the collection. Like most other societies nearly all of these honorary positions were for naturalists or geologists.

In York, Edward Charlesworth took up Phillips’s old post of keeper of the Museum in 1844. The Yorkshire Philosophical Society thought they were acquiring a suitable replacement for Phillips but in many ways the two men could not have been less alike. Phillips was a consummate scientist; fossils were scientific facts from which one could extract environmental and stratigraphic data. Despite his deviation into the emerging specialism of palaeontology he remained principally a stratigrapher. Charlesworth was a lover of fossils; to him fossils had an inherent sense of wonder enhanced by aesthetics and rarity. Despite his excursion into Crag stratigraphy he principally saw fossils as an end in themselves. Phillips was the bland, articulate diplomat who by merging himself into the establishment was able to climb within it; Charlesworth, the fiery, assertive, rude and awkward rebel, was an argumentative egalitarian willing to fight for his beliefs and who consequently remained on the periphery. Both were fluent speakers but whereas one used his voice to charm and explain, the other used it to propound and criticise.

Brought up in Suffolk, he visited the local Crag pits with his siblings encouraged by his cleric father who had a taste for geology. He passed through a succession of curatorial posts, and applied his skills widely in various society collections. From an innate knowledge of the Crag he progressively extended his knowledge of British strata backwards in time, first acquiring an understanding of the Tertiaries of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, and later the Jurassic of Yorkshire.[50]

Charlesworth had acquired the post in York after failing to succeed Lonsdale at the Geological Society. Here, after being initially rejected, he ‘canvassed all geological England’[51] to have his application reconsidered and located some 20 to 30 supporters. He was known by reputation to anyone with an interest in geology and as such was not averse to contacting individuals of some status who might have heard of him. Amongst these was Thomas Webster, who had recently become Professor of Geology at University College. But in contacting Webster, Charlesworth had made a mistake for here he met with someone who suffered under the factious atmosphere of the society and who had never since seen the collection. Webster felt any recommendation from him might do more harm than good. Charlesworth was already aware that the society, if it was divided into factions, could act in a chauvinistic manner towards those of whom it disapproved. Indeed, he was here not so much the perfect replacement for the much loved Lonsdale, but for his predecessor, the much abused Webster. 

It is probable that Charlesworth believed his rejection had come from Lyell’s supporters; Lyell had already crossed swords with him over the stratigraphy of the Crag which he disputed at the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Bristol in 1836. Charlesworth had first published his classification of the Crag in a ‘masterly paper’ in the previous year, then aged only 22.[52]The frustrated and infuriated Charlesworth even threatened legal proceedings against the society. On a visit to London in late 1842, Phillips ‘found Murchison & the geologists in fumes & fires about Mr. Charlesworth & his claims to succeed Lonsdale’ and told De la Beche, ‘How this rebellion will end I do not see except on one point that your Somerset House clique will be awfully shaken by it.’ A special meeting of the society was assembled, as Charles Darwin put it, ‘to call us of the Council over the coals – but he burnt his own fingers – for the meeting of a hundred and odd members, with not one dissident voice – voted the council “their grateful thanks”.’ ‘I never saw any man, to use a theatrical expression, so utterly damned’, Darwin told Henslow after the meeting. It was reported that Charlesworth was to quit science for Edinburgh and medicine, but instead he found the post in York. In this role he was highly successful until he made some comments centred on Christian humanity which went against the jingoistic fervour for blood arising from the Indian Mutiny of 1857.[53] It resulted in the loss of his job and the continuation of a career which tumbled through a succession of calamities, injustices, controversies and misjudgements to leave a bitter man.

The slavery to which Miller, Lonsdale, Phillips, Williamson, Simpson, Forbes and others were submitted was the norm for the curator. Others demonstrate a similar pattern. George Richardson, one time Mantell’s friend and curator, and later curator at the British Museum, fell into conflict with his former patron. John Salter, a brilliant taxonomist and curator who worked for Sedgwick and the Geological Survey, came increasingly into conflict with his former colleagues and with himself. Both he and Richardson committed suicide. The culture of exploitation at the British Museum (corruption, nepotism, excessive workload, poor pay, no pensions, maladministration, and so on) was literally driving its staff mad: ‘officers and assistants … always feel subject to the danger of mental disease which has existed among several officers.’ Leach was affected, as was John Edward Gray’s brother George. At the Royal College of Surgeons pressures the same, affecting both William Clift and Richard Owen in their time as ‘Conservator’ of the Hunterian Museum. It seemed that the life of the curator was no different from the struggling artist – the cliché of suffering for one’s art – which in contemporary artistic communities resulted in equally tragic lifelines. Similar ends also befell many of those who pursued science lecturing as a career, though here the lecturer was operating in an established market and some utilised this to great effect. The other professions also called for sacrifice. Richard Ripley began his life as a surgeon working for a London druggist making pills on a salary of £30 including free board and lodging. Working fifteen hours a day with only one day off each month this was work he hated and left as soon as he was able. When, in 1811, he came to establish himself in practice he toured the Yorkshire towns determining what living might be had in each. The census figures for Whitby, which he noted in his diary, enabled him to determine whether the town could give him a good livelihood. He discovered from a local medic in Malton that the population of that town was too poor to offer a living. He later discovered the additional pecuniary advantages of fossils.[54]

The exploitation of talent which curatorship represented was not unlike other professions. But the obligations and the consequent insecurities of patronage together with the self-desire for progression created a dangerous mix. It led not least to excessive overwork. Curators had to accept their station, and many were never to rise from it. Theirs was a peculiarly middle-class slavery largely self-imposed by expectation and insecurity. Curatorship offered the hope of intellectual indulgence but came with the socially and intellectually conflicting burden of the subservient and menial. Nevertheless, the younger Williamson and Phillips would never have risen to their subsequent elevation without the opportunities given by these positions. John Williamson had sacrificed income for the pleasures of natural history and appears to have had a wonderful time in the company of good friends. Phillips too received warm patronage and friendship. Simpson remained in familiar surroundings, essentially spending as much time as possible doing what he liked best.

Miller’s temperament, expectation and devotion mixed with the menial nature of much of the work of curation spelt disaster for him. John Salter, who will appear in later discussions of the Geological Survey, was well suited for science, a great fieldworker, curator and taxonomist but failed when he was moved to higher public profile and greater power. Charlesworth, one of the greatest fossil entrepreneurs and curators of the nineteenth century, was an outspoken loner unwilling to succumb to the establishment norms. These were not the personal traits of someone likely to be successful in an age of patronage. Plainly, talent alone was not enough. 

At this time – and through the efforts of these men – there had grown a recognition that the success of museums relied upon the appointment of a curator. Subsequently, this became something of a campaign for the museum community: ‘What a museum depends upon for its success and usefulness is not its building, not its cases, nor even its specimens, but its curator. He and his staff are the life and soul of the institution, upon whom its whole value depends.’ But it was not until the rise of the Geological Survey in the 1840s that a more secure foundation for the paid professional geologist was laid.[55]

[1].          Underwood, Paris, to Webster, 14 December 1821, describes Defrance’s collection of 3000 systematically arranged species (Challinor 1964-1965).

[2].          [Farey] (1817a: 269).

[3].          J[elly] (1833: 118).

[4].          Professionalisation in science is a thorny issue which has been widely discussed (see, for example, Morrell (1990)). For the purposes of discussion here the process is seen to combine specialisation, status and payment. Porter (1978: 816): ‘The first stage of geological professionalization was not the professional researcher, but the technician or popularizer.’ Allen (1985: 5-6) very succinctly points to the role of collections and curators in the professionalisation of science. Neve (1983: 193) mentions the career potential of curation. A more liberal interpretation of the professional might include the country parson whose pursuit of natural theology was often as integral to his being as tending his parishioners, for this Heyck (1982: 56). Professionalisation is revisited in later chapters.

[5].          Vernon to Goldie, 11 November 1823, in Melmore (1942)

[6].          Vernon to Goldie, 26 May and 2 June 1823, in Melmore (1942). For Phillips’s visit to Mantell’s museum, 3-5 June 1831, OUM Phillips Box 83 folder 22, reported to the YPS on 5 June 1831, YPS Scientific Communications volume 1. Phillips’s report on continental museums (in absentia), 6 October 1829, and Marshall’s, 3 March 1829, YPS Report for 1829.

[7].          A Geological Student, The Times, 15 May 1833, 4b.

[8].          See, for example, Edmonds (1982).

[9].          Edmonds (1982: 143-4) on Phillips’s employment.

[10].        Smith’s and Phillips’s backgrounds, Geikie (1905: 381), Edmonds (1982: 154). Collection organisation in 1804 from Smith’s claims, etc., reprinted by Sheppard (1917: 216). Geological collections today are organised in card trays in exact imitation of the system created by Smith.

[11].        For curation of Smith’s collection, Eyles (1967: 188). For ‘entirely new’, Smith quoted in Edmonds (1982: 147). For a detailed account of the sale and reproductions of the correspondence, Eyles (1967). For further details of Phillips’s work on the collection, Anon. (1874a: 598) and Anon. (1874b: 510). For the collection of the Geological Society, see Moore et al(1991: 55).

[12].        Phillips (1844) and Edmonds (1982).

[13].        Smith had lectured in Leeds in 1821 but it was in February 1824 that their lecturing careers took off. Use of specimens, Phillips (1835: ix). Smith’s lectures for 1824, for example, earned a profit of £40. For this and ‘very instructive …’, YPS Annual Report for 1824

[14].        For ‘than the …’, YPS Annual Report for 1825. Phillips’s working days were Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday; YPS Annual Report for 1825; YPS Daybook of John Phillips, 7 February 1826. Edmonds (1975a: 377, 384, 393) suggests the lower lecture fee was refused. A year later the YPS offered him between £35-40 depending on attendances, Minutes of Council, February 1824-April 1826, 4 January 1825, 9 January 1826. Williamson (1896: 71).

[15].        Phillips’s own record of his speech at a dinner party at Baines Hotel, York, 7 March 1826, OUM Phillips Box 82 folder 13, Diary 1825-1826.

[16].        OUM Phillips Box 82 folder 13, Diary 1825-1826, 6 April 1826.

[17].        Need for revision, YPS Daybook of John Phillips, 9, 18, 21 February 1826. The term ‘series’  was used, for example, by Conybeare and Phillips (1822: 181). On organisation of series, YPS Daybook of John Phillips, 9 May 1826.

[18].        YPS Annual Report for 1826.

[19].        Secord (1985: 61) suggests that the positive implications of these early careers in science are apparent only in retrospect; to those pursuing them they held great potential for disappointment and tragedy. For ‘a salaried …’, Phillips quoted by Collinge (1925: 43);‘a gentle …’, Phillips towards the end of his life, quoted by Orange (1973: 40).

[20].        Vernon Harcourt resigned as president in 1831 in the knowledge that the museum was safe in the hands of one who had ‘very superior scientific attainments, is modest, sensible and popular, well contented with science and £100 a year’, Vernon, York to Viscount Milton, 31 January 1831, in Morrell and Thackray (1984: 32).

[21].        Rudwick (1985: 444) for the importance of identification skills in the evolving science.

[22].        For ‘service industry’, Secord (1986a: 274); Phillips’s review, OUM Phillips Box 82 folder 19a, Journal 1829, 15 October 1829. Report upon the museum and library and presidential address, 19 February 1830, Proc. Geol. Soc. Lond.1, 173-5, 186.

[23].        Lonsdale’s health, Report of the Committee on the Museums, Proc. Geol. Soc. Lond.1, 349;‘gone away …’, Phillips, Malvern to De la Beche, 13 November 1842, NMW; ‘unreasonableness …’, Forbes to De la Beche, 11 November 1844, NMW 543; Moore et al.(1991: 57) for short-lived curators.

[24].        Conditions of service, Moore et al. (1991: 54); sacking from the RI and vulnerability at the society, Weindling (1997: 256, 265); ‘a professional …’, Webster, to Sedgwick, n.d.; ‘I have got among …’, Webster to Underwood, 18 March 1822; shameful waste, Underwood, Paris, to Webster, 13 January 1823 (all from Challinor (1964-1965)); see also Moore et al. (1991: 55).

[25].        Need to earn, Webster to Buckland, October 1836, Challinor (1964-1965: 5: 63).

[26].        Moore et al. (1991: 54) record two long periods of illness, and p. 56 for scandal. Death, in Edwards (1971: 473).

[27].        Edward W. Brayley to Webster, 10 November 1838, in Challinor (1964-1965).

[28].        J[elly] (1833: 117) and Taylor (1994: 187).

[29].        William Elford Leach (1790-1836) suffered increasingly from mental instability, DNB. Allen (1976: 85). Leach’s health is the subject of numerous letters between Pentland and Buckland (see Sarjeant and Delair 1980). However, their note 161, p. 314 incorrectly suggests that another Miller was the subject of the application for Leach’s post.  Buckland to De la Beche, 26 November 1821, makes clear that it was the Bristol author of the book on crinoids who was being supported.

[30].        Murchison, Presidential Address, 17 February 1832, Proc. Geol. Soc. Lond.1, 378. Buckland, Oxford to Miss Talbot, 26 November 1821, NMW 161. Appointment, Anon. (1829: 555); J[elly] (1833: 117); Taylor and Torrens (1987: 139). Salary, Neve (1983: 193); M.D. Crane MSS on J.S. Miller, Bristol City Museum Geological File MIL21.

[31].        For rivalry with Cumberland, Buckland to Greenough, 5 December 1817, in M.D. Crane MSS on J.S. Miller, Bristol City Museum Geological File MIL21; ‘stimulated …’, J[elly] (1833: 116); classification, Anon. (1831: 6); Cumberland, Keynes (1970).

[32].        ‘Is it because …’, OUM Phillips Box 82 folder 19a, Journal 1829, 13 October 1829. Concerns for his family, Miller to Mantell, 7 May 1828, in Mantell Papers, Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. Copy at Bristol City Museum.

[33].        OUM Phillips Box 82 folder 19a, Journal 1829. 13 October 1829.

[34].        J[elly] (1833: 119).

[35].        For more on Miller see Taylor (1994: 187). Cumberland, Bristol to Webster, 25 and 26 May 1830, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. Torrens and Cooper (1986: 264) show that news of British Museum curator George Fleming Richardson’s death spread with equal speed.

[36].        J[elly] (1833: 119), and p. 114 for ‘I am afraid …’.

[37].        Samuel Stutchbury (1798-1859), Taylor (1994: 188).

[38].        Hemingway (1946: 99) discusses Simpson’s collecting from measured sections. They had expected to dispense with him at the end of 1839, WL&PS (1839) Annual Report17.

[39].        Sheppard (1918: 312) on Simpson. On ‘useless expense’,  J. Travis Clay to T.W. Embleton, 2 May 1843, in Davis (1889: 164).

[40].      Simpson, ‘On the Rev Dr Young’ transcripts of three mss lectures transcribed by Parry Thornton (1998), WL&PS. Also pers. comm., Thornton, May 1999. On his monograph, Simpson (1843), Sheppard (1918: 300).

[41].        For ‘poor …’, Browne (1949), Smales (1867).

[42].        On the Simpson manoeuvre, SL&PS Minutes of Council, Committee to Manage the Museum, 6 November 1848.On the Williamsons’ payments, SL&PS Minutes of Council, 23 May 1838.

[43].        For ‘enjoyed …’, Williamson (1896: 6). John Williamson’s mutilated diary, 1831-1842, Scarborough Local Studies Library.

[44].        Letter of resignation, Williamson to SL&PS, undated, Scarborough Rotunda unnumbered papers. Pension, Leckenby to Williamson, 7 February 1853, Scarborough Rotunda unnumbered papers. Post-museum life, Williamson (1885).

[45].        Johnstone, London to Leckenby, Scarborough, 19 and 24 March 1853, Scarborough Rotunda 427.39.1 and 2. Phillips, York to Johnstone, 22 March 1853, Scarborough Rotunda 183.58.

[46].        On his early years, including curation, Williamson (1896: 12) and p. 59 for ‘If …’.

[47].        He was in post from November 1840-10 November 1847, see Goddard (1929: 61).

[48].        HL&PS (1827) Annual Report4.

[49].        Abolition of Dikes’s post, HL&PS Extraordinary meeting, 13 June 1832, HRO DSL 1 Minutes 1822-1833. Contract of service dated 23 August 1832, HRO DSL 19.  Pearsall is present in the records to 1836, is certainly working for the society in 1842, and still present in 1850 by which time he was involved with the Yorkshire mechanics institutes (Davis 1889: 458). Honorary curators, HL&PS Extraordinary meeting, 23 August 1832, HRO DSL 1 Minutes 1822-1833.

[50].      Woodward (1893); Presidential address (1894), QJGS50, 47-50.

[51].        Charles Darwin to Lyell, 7 October 1842 and Nov/Dec 1842, in Burkhardt and Smith (1986).

[52].        Charlesworth (1835; 1837). 

[53].        Phillips, Malvern to De la Beche, 13 November 1842, NMW.  For ‘ to call us …’, Darwin to W.D. Fox, 9 December 1842,  also Darwin to Henslow [22 January 1843], both in Burkhardt and Smith (1986). Charlesworth’s time at York, see Pyrah (1988: 66).

[54].        Richardson is discussed by Torrens and Cooper (1986) and Salter by Secord (1985). On the British Museum, Miller (1973: 231) quoting evidence given to the Royal Commission. At the Royal College of Surgeons, Dobson (1954), Rupke (1994) and Taylor (1994: 188). Seed (1988: 59) gives a roll-call of doomed Manchester artists. Lecturing career, Hays (1983: 94). Ripley diary, Whitby Museum.

[55].        ‘What a …’, Flower (1889: 12). On Survey, Secord (1985: 65).

From: Simon J. Knell. The Culture of English Geology, 1815-1851: A Science Revealed Through Its Collecting (Aldershot/Burlington USA/Singapore/Sydney: Ashgate Publishing, 2000).