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William Maclure


1763 - 1840

Father of American geology and educationalist. Born in Ayr, Maclure sailed for New York in 1778. He returned to London in 1782 where he grew wealthy as a partner in a company trading with America. In 1796, he settled in Virginia and became a US citizen. In 1803, Maclure was sent to France by the US government to represent the interests of American citizens who suffered losses during the French Revolution. There, he was able to study geology and travelled widely in Europe observing and collecting geological specimens. In 1807, he returned to the US and set about an enormous surveying task with the aim of producing the first geological map of that country. In 1809, he published this map under the auspices of the American Philosophical Society and, in 1817, he published an updated version.

Maclure is also well-known as the partner of reformer Robert Owen (1771 - 1858) in his unsuccessful social experiment in New Harmony, Indiana. He had visited Owen's mill at New Lanark in 1824. He met Owen in Philadelphia in 1825 and decided to support his venture, arriving in New Harmony the following year along with a group of other intellectuals on the Boatload of Knowledge. However, his failing health meant that he spent most of the succeeding years in Mexico.

In 1812, Maclure was a founder of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia and later became its president for more than 20 years. Along with David Dale Owen (1808 - 1860), and others, Maclure was also influential in the formation of the US Geological Survey and Smithsonian Institution.

He died in Mexico. Mount Maclure, a sizeable peak in the Sierra Nevada, was named in his honour.


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