Geology

Key Books and Essays

Simon Knell. 2000. The Culture of English Geology, 1815-1851: A Science Revealed Through its Collecting, Ashgate, 377pp. This book argues that geology be understood as a cultural development rather than simply as a history of ideas. The book centres on the emergence of the fossil as a common currency connecting the labourer to the savant, which in large part fuels the birth of the museum as a ubiquitous cultural institution in provincial Britain. I argue that in many respects geology was a museological science rather than one solely resolved in the field. The book treats its subject expansively. A study of these collectors, curators and practical men, it is full of stories and really does reveal a different kind of geology. Full free access to this book on this site via the link above.

Simon Knell. 2008. ‘The road to Smith: How the Geological Society came to possess English geology‘, in Cherry Lewis & Simon Knell (eds.) The Making of the Geological Society of London, Geological Society, London. A long, rich and complex sociological study of the invention of ‘English geology’ and the reception of ‘The Father of English Geology’, William Smith. I show that the first of these terms actually refers specifically to Smithian method and thus that the second term is correct, despite the protests of historians who argue that sciences cannot have parents. The essay extends the history developed in The Culture of English Geology. Follow the link above for full details of this book and, through the courtesy of the Geological Society of London, access a free download of this chapter.

Simon Knell. 2007. ‘Museums, fossils and the cultural revolution of science: mapping change in the politics of knowledge in early nineteenth-century Britain’ in Simon Knell, Suzanne MacLeod and Sheila Watson (eds), Museum Revolutions: How Museums Change and Are Changed, Routledge, London. An exploration of how institutions and disciplinary cultures change, and how that change can be revealed through studies of material culture. It analyses and graphically explains the major cultural changes developed in The Culture of English Geology. Follow the above link to access full details of this book and access to the accepted manuscript version of this chapter.

Simon Knell. 2012. The Great Fossil Enigma: The Search for the Conodont Animal, Indiana University Press, Bloomington. A study of the research culture that emerged around one of science’s greatest enigmas. It considers the role of intangible fossils in the production of scientific belief and understanding. Written as a sequel to The Culture of English Geology with the aim of focusing more closely on the relationship between the object and the scientific idea. Follow this link to access full details of the book with a preview via Google books.

Simon Knell. 2002. ‘Collecting, conservation and conservatism: late twentieth century developments in the culture of British geology’, in Oldroyd, D.R. (ed.), The Earth Inside and Out: Some Major Contributions to Geology in the Twentieth Century,Geological Society, London, 329-351. A study of the politics of conservation as Britain moved from the 1970s into the 1980s, it emulates The Culture of English Geology in a C20th setting. Access to the accepted manuscript version of this chapter via the link above.

Other Work

Simon Knell. 2012. ‘The intangibility of things’, in S. Dudley (ed.) Museum Objects, Routledge, London, 324-35. A constructivist reading of the museum object, it discusses the possibility of objects possessing an intangible twin. It is based on and develops from the conclusion to The Great Fossil Enigma. Access to the accepted manuscript version of this chapter via the link above.

Simon Knell. 2007. ‘The sustainability of geological mapmaking: the case of the Geological Survey of Great Britain, Earth Sciences History, 26(1), 13-29. A short history of the political context of science.

Simon Knell and Michael Taylor. 2006 . ‘Hugh Miller: fossils, landscape and literary geology‘, Proceedings of the Geologists Association, 117, 85-98. Hugh Miller is a Scottish literary icon, and was fabulous travel writer, newspaper editor, and ‘amateur’ geologist. This paper looks at his complexity and is based on the contribution to the book edited by Borley (below). Access to the accepted manuscript version on the University of Leicester research archive via the link above.

Simon Knell. 2004 (1997). ‘Brighton, Albert George (1900-1988)’, New DNB.

Simon Knell and Michael Taylor. 2003. ‘Hugh Miller, fossil discoverer and collector’, in Borley, L. (ed.) Celebrating the Life and Times of Hugh Miller: Scotland in the Early 19th Century. Ethnography and Folklore, Geology and Natural History, Church and Society, Cromarty Arts Trust, Edinburgh, UK.

Cherry Lewis and Simon Knell, (eds) 2001. The Age of the Earth: From 4004BC to AD2002, Geological Society, London, including introductory chapter by Knell and Lewis, ‘Celebrating the age of the Earth’. A celebratory history.

Simon Knell. 2000. ‘Museums and geology’, in Hancock, P.L. (ed.) Oxford Companion to the Earth, Oxford UP.

Simon Knell. 1996. ‘Museums: a timeless urban resource for the geologist?’ in Matthew R. Bennett, Peter Doyle, Jonathan G. Larwood & Colin Prosser (eds) Geology on your Doorstep, Geological Society of London. I have disowned the published version of this paper which was mangled during editing and partly published under the name of one of the editors. The link above is to the accepted manuscript. Do not cite the published version. I have published this content elsewhere.

Simon Knell. 1996. ‘The roller-coaster of museum geology’, in Pearce, S.M. (ed.) Exploring Science in Museums, New Research in Museum Studies, Athlone. Explores the episodic support for museum geology in Britain over a period of 200 years. Access to the accepted manuscript version via the link above.

Patrick Wyse-Jackson and Simon Knell, (eds.). 1994. Museums and Fossil Excavation, Geological Curator, 6(2), Thematic Issue, including my contributions: ‘Collecting and excavation in palaeontology’ and ‘Palaeontological excavation: historical perspectives’. The Geological Curators’ Group provide open access to this journal – just follow the link.

Simon Knell. 1992. ‘The Local Geologist 10: Saying it with rocks’, Geology Today, 8, 224-228. Part of a column for amateur geologists curated by myself and Mike Taylor.

Simon Knell and Chris Collins. 1992. ‘The Local Geologist 7: Extinct again!’, Geology Today, 8, 62-65.On the conservation of geological specimens.

Simon Knell and Michael Taylor. 1991. ‘Museums on the rocks’. Museums Journal, 91(1), 23-25. On the state and status of museum geological collections.

Simon Knell. 1991. ‘The Local Geologist 5: The most important fossil in the world’, Geology Today, 7, 221-224. Discussing how we decide the relative importance of fossils.

Simon Knell. 1991. ‘The Local Geologist 3: The responsible collector’, Geology Today, 7, 106-110. Discussing collecting and the contemporary demand for responsible practices.

Simon Knell. 1991. ‘The Local Geologist 2: Making rock records’, Geology Today, 7, 62-66. Documenting the geological record.

Simon Knell. 1990. ‘The end for the Frodingham Ironstone?’ Geology Today, 6, 125-128. Asserting the importance of this fossiliferous stratum that was then threatened by landfill.

Simon Knell & Michael Taylor. 1989. Geology and the Local Museum, HMSO, 150pp. Pioneering self-help guide for museum staff which was distributed free to museums across the UK.

Simon Knell. 1988. The Natural History of the Frodingham Ironstone, Scunthorpe Museum and Art Gallery, 24pp.

M.A.V. Gill and Simon Knell. 1988. ‘Tunbridge Wells Museum: Geology and George Abbott (1844-1925)’, The Geological Curator, 5, 3-16.

Simon Knell. 1987. ‘Geology Curators get on their Bikes’, Geology Today, 3, 136-138. About my peripatetic role as Travelling Geology Curator for the Area Museums Service for the South East of England.