Agassiz Rock

An internationally-important site relating to the history of science, Agassiz Rock is situated in Blackford Glen, 2¼ miles (3.5 km) south of the centre of Edinburgh. Located in the north side of the glen and easily accessible, the rock provided the Swiss geologist Louis Agassiz (1807-73) with evidence for the action of glaciers on the landscape, the first time this had been noted in Scotland. The rock had been identified as of interest by various naturalists, including Professor Robert Jameson (1774 -1854) and David Milne-Home (1805-90). However, Agassiz noted that striations on the rock were similar to the ice-carved features of his native Switzerland. He was in Scotland to deliver a paper at a scientific meeting in Glasgow and was taken to Blackford on 27th October 1840 by amateur geologist Charles Maclaren (1782 - 1866). Maclaren was sufficiently interested that the discovery featured on the front page of the Scotsman newspaper of which he was the editor. Although other interpretations for this particular site have been put forward, Agassiz provided the stimulus for geologists to identify evidence of glacial action throughout Scotland. Subsequent investigations have confirmed that Agassiz was correct and evidence here, and nearby, has indicated a significant east-flowing ice sheet.

In 1908, the Edinburgh Geological Society persuaded Edinburgh Town Council to place a railing around the site and erect a plaque. The railing was later dismantled but the plaque replaced in the 1960s. Another plaque was subsequently placed here by Scottish Natural Heritage in 1993, unveiled by their Chairman, Magnus Magnusson (1929 - 2007). Unfortunately this has been stolen and the site damaged by vandals such that the striations are no longer visible. Today, the rock is used by boulderers and climbers.

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