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Sir John Murray


1841 - 1914

Pioneering Oceanographer. Born in Ontario (Canada) of Scottish parents, who had emigrated seven years previously. He came to Scotland to complete his education at Stirling High School and studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, but soon left to join a whaling expedition to the Arctic as a surgeon. He returned to Edinburgh and studied Geology under Sir Archibald Geikie (1835 - 1924) and natural philosophy under Peter Guthrie Tait (1831 - 1901). Tait introduced Murray to Sir Charles Wyville Thomson (1830-82), who held the Chair of Natural History and had also been appointed to lead the Challenger Expedition. Murray joined Thomson on this four-year expedition to explore the deep oceans and was responsible for publishing most of the results (1880-95).

In 1883, Murray set up the Edinburgh Marine Laboratory at Granton, the first of its kind in Britain. In 1894, this laboratory was moved to Millport (North Ayrshire) to become the Scottish Marine Station, the forerunner of today's Scottish Association for Marine Science (Dunstaffnage).

Murray is credited as the founder of modern oceanography, and indeed was the first to use the term 'oceanography'. He was also the first to note the existence of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and of ocean trenches. He mapped the distribution of ocean sediments, noted the presence of deposits derived from deserts in the deep ocean and published a vast number of papers on his discoveries. He also conducted a bathymetric survey of Scotland's freshwater lochs from 1897, with Frederick and Laurence Pullar.

He was killed when his car overturned in Kirkliston and lies buried in Dean Cemetery in Edinburgh. His name is remembered in the John Murray Laboratories at the University of Edinburgh and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency's research vessel, the S.V. Sir John Murray. Both a species of octopus (Cirrothauma murrayi) and the Murrayonida order of sea sponges are also named after him.


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