The early history of the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall 1814-1850

Crook, Denise Anne (1990). The early history of the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall 1814-1850. PhD thesis The Open University.



The origins and early membership of the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall, founded in Penzance in 1814, are examined, and it is concluded that the institution was established mainly to provide a source of culture for a middle class group of men; however in the initial years, the Cornish mining industry, in which many of them had investments, was also a major concern. Comparisons are made with a number of similar societies, including the Royal Institution of Cornwall (f. 1818) and the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic society (f. 1833). It is shown that the RGSC had some similarities with other provincial societies, but two important differences are singled out; specialisation in geology, and the relative unimportance of religious dissent.

Three case studies are presented. The first describes the society's efforts to produce a geological map of Cornwall, and argues that a map published in 1832 was inadequate, and met the needs neither of the society, nor of the mining industry. The second study looks at investigations of mineral veins and a survey of Cornish mines made by WJ Henwood, and concludes that although some useful results were presented, these were of little lasting value. The work of RW Fox on the electromagnetic origins of mineral veins is discussed, with attention to the reasons for Fox's presentation of his work to institutions other than the RGSC. The final case study examines the subject of health and safety in mines.

The geological work of the society is described, and it is concluded that although the Geological Society of London was possibly used as a model, members of the RGSC were prepared to follow more diverse geological interests than were members of the London Society, partly because of the nature of Cornish geology, but also because they initially paid attention to the utilitarian applications of the subject.

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