Sir Roderick Impey Murchison (1792-1871)
Pioneering geologist and founder member of the Royal Geographical Society.
We understand how our world was formed through the work of pioneering geologists like Murchison. There’s even a crater on the moon named after him!
Roderick was born in Ross-shire in Scotland, went to school in Durham and then to a military college. He served in the army for eight years, travelled in Italy with his wife for two, then returned to settle in County Durham.
There he met the inventor Sir Humphrey Davy, who introduced him to the new science of geology. It was to become his life’s passion. He studied the geology of the south of England, the south of France and the Alps, all the while reporting back to the Geological Society of London.
Roderick’s research into the ages and formation of the layers of rock in the Welsh borders resulted in his hugely influential book, The Silurian System, in 1839. He then helped establish the structures and events of the Devonian geological period in the south west of England. He went on to classify rocks in Russia and, towards the end of his life, studied the geology of Highland Scotland.
Roderick was a founder member of the Royal Geographical Society, and was its president four times. He was knighted for his work in 1846, and awarded a host of prizes and accolades for a lifetime of geological research and discovery. There are also towns, rivers and islands around the world named after him – and a crater on the moon.