Robert Dick

1811 - 1866

Self-taught natural historian. Born Tullibody (Clackmannanshire), the son of an exciseman, Dick was educated at the local parish school. He trained as a baker in Glasgow, Greenock and Leith. In 1830, he followed his father to Thurso where he opened his own baker's shop.

In his youth he had developed a keen interest in natural history. In Thurso, he was able to devote his free time to the collection and study of plants, rocks and fossils of Caithness. Inspired by the geologist Hugh Miller (1802-56), Dick began communicating with him and sent Miller some of his best fossil specimens. These can now be seen in the Royal Museum in Edinburgh.

Dick's observations led Miller and Sir Roderick Murchison (1792 - 1871), who was Director of the Geological Survey, to revise their interpretation of the Devonian rocks of the North of Scotland. Among his botanical discoveries was Northern Holy Grass (Hierochloe odorata), previously thought to be extinct in Britain.

Dick died a lonely bachelor in Thurso and is buried in the cemetery there. Thurso Museum holds much of his collection. The fossil fish species Dickosterus was named after him. In 1878, Dick became the subject of a biography by Samuel Smiles (1812 - 1904).

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