Sir Roderick Impey Murchison

1792 - 1871

Geologist and geographer. Born in Tarradale House, near Muir of Ord (Highland), the eldest son of an East India Company doctor who had made his fortune in the service of Warren Hastings in Calcutta, Murchison was educated in Durham and at the Royal Military College (now Sandhurst) and served under the Duke of Wellington in the Peninsular War. He became fascinated by geology and, in 1835, after fieldwork on the Welsh border, he established the Silurian geological system. He also defined the Permian system and, with Adam Sedgwick, the Devonian. At the invitation of Czar Nicholas, Murchison led a survey of the Russian Empire (1840 - 1845). He predicted the discovery of gold in Australia and was a founder of the Royal Geological Society of London. Murchison was knighted in 1846 and appointed Director-General of the Geological Survey on the United Kingdom in 1855. His later years were occupied by examining the rocks of the Scottish Highlands.

In 1870, he persuaded the University of Edinburgh to create the Regius Chair of Geology and Mineralogy, promising to endow it, and successfully lobbied for his close friend and biographer Sir Archibald Geikie (1835 - 1924) to be its first occupant.

He died in London and is buried in Brompton Cemetery. A prodigious author, Murchison published more than 120 scientific paper and books in his lifetime. The Murchison Falls (Uganda) and the Murchison River (Australia) are named after him.

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