Geology

Key Books and Essays

Simon J. Knell. 2000. The Culture of English Geology, 1815-1851: A Science Revealed Through its Collecting, Ashgate, 377pp. ISBN 1-84014-625-7. This book argues that geology, and its development, be understood as a culture 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, and in large part fuelling 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 really does reveal a different kind of geology. [Full free access to this book on this site]

Simon J. 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. It extends the history developed in The Culture of English Geology. [Through the courtesy of the Geological Society of London, available for free download].

Simon J. 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]

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 in order to focus more closely on the relationship between the object and the scientific idea.]

Simon J. 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. ISBN 1-86239-096-7. [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]

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]

Simon J. 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 J. Knell and Michael A. 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 is complexity]

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

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

Simon J. Knell. 1996. ‘Museums: a timeless urban resource for the geologist?’ Geology on your Doorstep, Geological Society of London [I have disowned this paper: part of the submitted paper was published under the name of one of the editors and the remainder was mangled during editing and published without any review by the contributors. I have published this content elsewhere].

Simon J. Knell. 1996. ‘The roller-coaster of museum geology’, in Pearce, S.M. (ed.) Exploring Science in Museums, New Research in Museum Studies, Athlone, 29-56. ISBN 0-4859-000-68. [Explains that recent concern about the state of collections and public understanding represents a phase in the episodic support for museums and science].

Patrick Wyse-Jackson & Simon J. Knell, (eds.) 1994 Museums and Fossil Excavation, Geological Curator, 6(2), Thematic Issue, including the essays, ‘Collecting and excavation in palaeontology’ and ‘Palaeontological excavation: historical perspectives’

Simon Knell. 1992. ‘The Local Geologist 10: Saying it with rocks’, Geology Today, 8, 224-228. [Part of a column curated by myself and Michael A. Taylor]

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

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

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

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

Simon J. 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 J. Knell & Michael A. Taylor. 1989. Geology and the Local Museum, HMSO, 150pp. [Pioneering self-help guide for museum staff].

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

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

Simon J. 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].