John Herschel’s Geology: The Cape of Good Hope in the 1830s

Part of the Archimedes book series (ARIM, volume 52)


The theme which unites this article came to me as a charge – a charge I brought upon myself, but a charge nevertheless. An international group of historians of geology (INHIGEO) was to meet in Cape Town in 2016. Our group had no active members in South Africa, which presented a problem for the conference organizers: How could we have a history of geology field trip? I volunteered that John Herschel had lived at the Cape in the 1830s and that there must be a story and a field trip to be found there. I did lead a field trip “On the Trail of Charles Darwin and John Herschel: The Cape in the 1830s.” I also discovered an unanticipated depth of archival material, which I will be exploring for some time, and which informs this story of the encounter between John Herschel, the astronomer, and the geology of Cape Town, South Africa, in in the 1830s.

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG  2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.American Institute of PhysicsCollege ParkUSA

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