Professorial and Amateur Research in South Devon (1895)
By A. R. Hunt, M.A., F.L.S., F.G.S.
(Read at Okehampton, July, 1895.)
It is impossible to look back over the records of the Devonshire Association, without noticing how suddenly geological research, which at one time occupied its full share of our Transactions, died out. Old workers ceased to contribute, and no young ones came forward – a remarkable fact, when it is considered what an excellent opportunity for publication the Association offers to any serious investigator. The explanation suggested in the following paper is that no provincial work can survive in the face of persistent neglect, opposition, misrepresentation, and obloquy, by representative leaders of the science at headquarters. Research under such circumstances is practically impossible. The Geological Society was founded to promote the study of the mineral structure of the earth. For many years past considerable effort has been made, and with much success, on the part of influential members, both of that Society and of the British Association, to repress such study. The science boycott is a far more formidable engine than might at first sight appear, one of its indirect effects being that the boycottee is not favoured with reprints of scientific papers. Indeed, the chief advantage of getting a paper into the Journal of the Geological Society is the cross in the list of members classing a Fellow as among the active workers of the Society. I felt my way towards this useful mark on three occasions, with reference to the Submarine Geology of the Channel, Waves, and the Rounding of Sand-grains; but discretion being the better part of valour, I made a strategic movement to the rear. Having regard to the manner in which that august body of scientists suppressed the Kent’s Cavern evidence in 1846, thereby losing for Great Britain the honour of solving the problem of the antiquity of man, I deemed it best to offer my facts to the Society with much the same reserve as the Sibyl dealt with King Tarquin, and with much the same result except that the Sibyl returned, and I did not.* One thing I must admit with utmost gratitude. When the scientific boycott was well nigh triumphant, the Editors of the Geological Magazine gave me access to their hospitable columns, than which no knight could wish a fairer field.
* Vide Appendix.
In such miscellaneous work as mine has been, all success must necessarily depend on the helping hands of colleagues. Among those to whom my thanks are specially due, are my Cambridge friends, who have one and all been most helpful, from my first half-hour’s demonstration on the microscope by Mr. Tawney, at the commencement of the Channel blocks research, to the final acceptance of the collection by Professor Hughes for the Museum, and long after. To the Director-General and the Members of the Survey I am particularly grateful for their camaraderie while, for a short time, working at the Devon schists. My second half-hour’s demonstration on the microscope, this time at Jermyn Street from Mr. Teall, enabled me, when the time came, to detect tourmaline at the Start; and it is the simple truth that without Mr. Ussher I should never have tackled the schists at all, and without Mr. Teall I should not have had the technical skill to recognise the detrital tourmaline. Of Mr. Pengelly and Mr. Tawney it is hard to speak; their loss seems greater as the years roll on. The memory of the just is blessed.
Requiescant in pace.
It is now about six years since at Tavistock in 1889, in my concluding paper on the Submarine Geology of the English Channel off the coast of South Devon, I endeavoured to sum up the conflicting arguments for and against the Devonian age of the Devonshire schists, which had been maintained up to the date referred to.
This very old problem had been started afresh at the Ilfracombe Meeting of the Devonshire Association, by my paper on a block of granite from the Salcombe fishing grounds. That paper had been handed to Mr. Pengelly in manuscript, to enable him to utilise its facts in the preparation of his own paper on “The Metamorphosis of the Rocks extending from Hope Cove to Start Bay, South Devon” (Trans. Dev. Assoc. 1879), which followed it immediately in the Transactions, and in which Mr. Pengelly assumed* that the slates to the northward of the schists “are certainly, and the schists probably, amongst the most recent Devonian deposits in South Devon”. Mr. Pengelly maintained, in conclusion, that the hypothesis of a submarine granitoid formation, extending from the Channel to Dartmoor, accounted for, (1) the northerly dip, as well as (2) the metamorphosis of the Start and Bolt schists; (3) for the gneissic and, perhaps, granitic origin of the Eddystone rocks; (4) for the block of granite caught by the trawler in October, 1878; (5) for the blocks of the same kind of rock lying beneath the cliffs, east of the Prawle; and (6) for the crowd of granitoid pebbles immediately east of the River Erme.
* It must be needless to remark that we are here dealing, not with the age of the Start and Bolt as rocks, but with the era of their metamorphosis.” Pengelly, Trans. Dev. Assoc. xi. 325.
Now, this elaborate deduction was based on one of the most misleading coincidences which ever entrapped a cautious geologist. Geologists had declared that certain geological phenomena on shore, rendered it probable that the Dartmoor granite extended as a subterranean formation under South Devon, and probably formed the floor of the Channel off the southern headlands of the county. I was fortunate enough to succeed in obtaining a large number of crystalline rocks from the very locality indicated as likely to supply them. Most naturally it was concluded that the granitoid rocks found were the ones sought for, and that the post-Carboniferous Dartmoor rocks really reappeared under the waters of the English Channel.
Before very long, evidence came to hand that the Channel crystalline rocks were very different from the Dartmoor varieties; were probably much older, and therefore unequal to the task of giving rise to the metamorphic phenomena with which they had been credited. The Channel rocks, indeed, were considered of so generally ancient a type, in the case of the first half-dozen or so brought to land, that my colleague in the investigation, the late Mr. E. B. Tawney, suspected that the Devon schists might be pre-Cambrian, in other words Archaean, and took an early opportunity to examine them, in the expectation of being first in the field to proclaim their antiquity; or, more strictly speaking, to prove their antiquity, for the great age of the schists was one of the hypotheses of De La Beche and other geologists. Mr. Tawney came, he saw, but in this case he did not conquer. He returned to Cambridge, hoping at some future time to find leisure to tackle the problem effectually.
In the following year I was compelled to admit that the hypothesis of the Dartmoor granite reappearing in the English Channel must be given up, albeit that this hypothesis had itself led to the discovery of the Channel granites. In 1881, I wrote: “If these typical granites and gneisses are of the age suggested (i.e. pre-Devonian), they can clearly have no claim to having had anything to do with the metamorphosis of the more modern Devonian slates of the Start and Bolt district.” But I still clung to the many other crystalline rocks, syenite, gabbro, diabase, and diorite, as being possibly of later age than the deposition of the Devon schists, so firmly engrained had been the doctrine that the schists were Devonian, and subsequently metamorphosed by some igneous rock in their neighbourhood.
In December, 1882, Mr. E. B. Tawney went abroad for the Christmas vacation, and there died before the close of the year. When in Devonshire he had been a member of the Devon Association, and had contributed to its Transactions. His descriptions of rocks, appended to my own earlier Channel papers, are models of what such descriptions should be; descriptions accurate and detailed of the minerals contained, and of their mode of occurrence – the full facts, unbiassed, left to speak for themselves.
On the death of Mr. Tawney, I asked Professor Bonney to fill the void, as otherwise the Channel research could not continue. This he most kindly consented to do, concluding his reply with the cordial words, “So I will do my best to supply Mr. Tawney’s place.” This was written in February, 1883. In my paper in August, 1883 (read at Exmouth), there appeared Mr. Tawney’s last six rock analyses, and Professor Bonney’s first three.
In the meantime, about a month after consenting to assist me, Professor Bonney, at Easter 1883, spent a few days on the Devonshire schists, and subsequently in November of the same year read a paper on the subject to the Geological Society of London. In this paper he claimed the Devon schists as of Archaean age, whilst expressing the opinion that they could not “be referred to the earlier portion of it”.*
* Q. J. G. S. xl. 24.
Had Professor Bonney given me any hint as to his intentions, I could have warned him as to Mr. Tawney’s inability to confirm his own pre-conceived idea that the schists were pre-Cambrian. As it was, I found myself in a difficulty. I had never myself wavered from the belief that the schists were Devonian, but in future Professor Bonney regarded any difference of opinion somewhat in the light of an impertinence.* I confess that Professor Bonney’s confidence ultimately shook me, and I accepted his opinion at his own estimate.
* Should any of my friends consider me an unwarranted intruder into this problem, I ask them in fairness to read the first paragraph of Mr. Pengelly’s paper on the “Devon Schists”. (Trans. Dev. Assoc. xi. 819.)
In the discussion that followed Prof. Bonney’s paper, Dr. Hicks, F.R.S., agreed with the view that the schists were among the newer of the Archaean series. On the same occasion, in reply to a question, the Professor said that “the rocks dredged by Mr. Hunt in the Channel, were generally of a much older type than those of South Devon.” This, under the circumstances, was equivalent to saying they were much older than the newer Archaeans: a hard saying in the case of the sandstones, diabase, killas, diorites, gabbros, and serpentine; to say nothing of the granites of unknown age.
It will be observed that the great South Devon problem had executed a complete volte face. From Devonian rocks, metamorphosed by post-Carboniferous granites, the schists had become a series of newer Archaeans, abutting against older Archaean crystalline rocks in the Channel.
The South Devon problem having been so promptly packed up and put away, I looked about for some unoccupied field for work, and lighted on Dartmoor; oblivious, or ignorant, of the fact that my friends, Messrs. Ussher and Worth, had already made that district their own. Before discovering this fact, I had evolved a theory that the Dartmoor granite was an Archaean granite, much altered and partially re-dissolved in post-Carboniferous times. Thus, for a time, on the Dartmoor question, we three were at daggers drawn – Mr. Ussher with his laccolite, Mr. Worth with his volcano, and myself with my Archaean granite. Needless to say, we always assisted each other, regardless of consequences. I well remember casually announcing my heresy to Mr. Ussher, and his reply, “My dear friend, you will throw yourself over a precipice “; to which I could but rejoin, “Then I’m going over.”
My Dartmoor work indirectly threw me back on the schists, as the two problems are, in fact, intimately connected, and led me to write the following passage, which one might suppose to be couched in terms sufficiently humble to appease the most exacting Professor:
“It would be very convenient for the theory I am advocating, could the old view be maintained, that the South Devon schists are altered Devonians; but in the face of Professor Bonney’s conviction that they are of Archaean age, I hesitate to express an opinion one way or the other.”*
* Trans. Dev. Assoc. xxi. 255.
In other words, my facts tended to confirm the Devonian theory of the schists – so much the worse for the facts, when pitted against professorial opinion.
In the meantime, in the years 1887, 1888, and 1889, Mr. A. Somervail had contributed to our Transactions three most important papers on the Metamorphic Rocks of South Devon, in which he upheld their Devonian age. He had, I believe, the distinguished honour, at that time, of being the only geologist to hold that view. One of the most important points made by Mr. Somervail, lay in his insistence on the significance of the volcanic rocks (greenstones) in the neighbourhood of Dartmouth, in connection with the chloritic rocks in the metamorphic district.
Mr. Somervail, at that time, was a member of the Council of the Devonshire Association, whose communications were esteemed, and printed in extenso; a writer, too, whose pen never wandered from the path of the strictest and most punctilious courtesy. He had, however, dared to express an opinion which did not coincide with the novel Archaean views of Professor Bonney, so he was treated to one of those contemptuous incidental comments peculiar to that distinguished geologist.
“As I am writing, I may as well briefly notice another criticism on some work of mine in the South-west … As the writer has ‘to confess to much ignorance as to the methods and results of microscopic research’, and the question is one in which such methods are essential in order to distinguish real differences, and avoid being misled by superficial resemblances, I cannot admit that he is qualified to investigate the subject, or waste time by discussing it with him,¹ and will only say that though, since I wrote the paper, I have frequently examined my specimens and slides, I have seen no reason to alter my opinion as to the separateness of the two groups of rocks. … It would be thought strange if anyone were to enter into a dispute as to the interpretation of a corrupt passage in a chorus of a tragedy of Aeschylus, without a preliminary study of the niceties of the Greek language; yet this is the course which some persons follow in petrology, and seem to think that thereby they are doing a service to science.”²
1 This is practically a refusal to give Mr. Somervail the benefit of the Professor’s criticism, with reasons for disagreeing. Yet in 1886, in the Presidential Address from the Chair of Sec. C, Professor Bonney had publicly thanked Mr. Somervail for assistance rendered in the way of specimens! And after all, it appears that Mr. Somervail was right and the Professor wrong.
2 Geological Magazine, 1887, p. 574.
Here the Professor is quite mistaken; were a Latin scholar fortunate enough to find an ancient Latin version of the tragedies of Aeschylus, he would be in a position to maintain an opinion against the conjectures, surmises, and emendations of our best Greek scholars, founded on their rotten and ragged manuscripts. Now, Professor Bonney seems to have staked his reputation on a very fragmentary petrological palimpsest, with all the original record obscured by secondary characters. Mr. Somervail only attempted to check and test Professor Bonney’s conjectures and surmises, based on the said fragment, with the assistance of a well-preserved stratigraphical record, apparently treating of the same subject.
It will be acknowledged that such a severe stricture as the above, by a past President and Vice-President of the Geological Society, on a prominent member of the Devon Association, and of the Torquay Natural History Society, was not calculated to strengthen those Societies, or to promote provincial research.
My own interest in the schists was, at the time referred to, dormant, and so far as I was myself concerned, I paid little attention to the controversy, until my friend, Mr. W. A. E. Ussher, F.G.S., of the Geological Survey, who had been for long re-mapping the area between Torquay and Dartmoor, crossed the Dart and approached the much-debated schists. It was obvious that the problem was now going to be attacked, not only by a most skilful stratigraphist, but by a geologist whose mind was saturated with the details and characters of the Devonian strata. Such an opportunity had never before occurred, and may well never occur again.
When mapping between Dartmouth and Slapton Sands, Mr. Ussher was kind enough to allow me to accompany him on three separate occasions, to learn a little of the details of field-work with map and hammer. The first day my attention was so much attracted by the raised-beach problems, that the questions of slates and volcanics seemed of minor interest; but when once the fact dawned on me that the chlorite schists and mica schists on the south were paralleled by the slates and volcanic rocks on the north, my old interest in the metamorphic problem was renewed and intensified. My self-allotted task was now to couple the two series of rocks together in as many ways as possible, for slicing and microscopic examination. Having made a small collection of couples, I submitted the slides to Mr. A. Harker, F.G.S., with very little information as to localities, my object being to get a perfectly unbiassed opinion; and so uninfluenced was Mr. Harker, that, as may be seen in his descriptions, he disconnected my couples: B1 from B2, and C1 from C2;* so that he proved himself unconscious of the intention on my part to keep each of those couples together. On the receipt of Mr. Harker’s report, a curious coincidence occurred. I had written to Mr. Ussher, asking how the stratigraphical evidence was tending, and on the very day Mr. Harker’s report arrived, the following letter from Mr. Ussher also came to hand:
“Rookfields, Torquay, 19th May, 1891.
“My Dear Hunt, – In reply to yours of 18th inst As far as my investigations of the Start and Prawle areas have gone, I have been unable to obtain a shred of evidence from the stratigraphical side in favour of the Archaean age of the mica schists and so-called chloritic rocks, or, indeed, to endorse De La Beche’s opinion respecting them (pp. 35, 36, Report on Geology of Cornwall and Devon) as being an older series than the then termed grauwacke.”
* Geol Mag. Aug. 1892, p. 347.
Mr. Ussher’s permission to use this letter was granted after he had finished and left the schists, so it was not modified by his subsequent work.
Geologists will, I think, admit that this strong stratigraphical testimony, confirming my own microscopic work, afforded strong prima facie evidence of the non-Archaean age of the schists.
However, still stronger evidence was close at hand. Mr. Harker had detected tourmaline in the sandstone C1, but had not noticed it in C2, its schist couple. Now it flashed across my mind one night, while lying awake, that it would be a splendid point if I could find tourmaline in C2. Next day I searched the slide Mr. Harker had returned, and naturally failed to find more than Mr. Harker had himself found, but I had a duplicate slide, and in this duplicate there proved to be a single minute fragment of detrital tourmaline. Thus this mineral was no chance discovery, but had been specially sought. Several more slices were now cut, each of which proved to contain detrital tourmaline. As all, so far, depended on one hand specimen, I went to the Start, sought diligently for an hour, and at last found one bit of rock, in situ, which seemed promising. This rock proved to contain more perfect crystals of detrital tourmaline than the one collected by Mr. Somervail. This discovery of tourmaline, under the circumstances, seemed so important that I determined to bring it before the British Association at Cardiff. But being very anxious not to forestall Mr. Ussher’s conclusions, I induced Mr. Ussher to submit a paper at the same meeting, to take precedence of mine. The reception of these papers was most disappointing, and I was actually stopped in my remarks on Mr. Ussher’s paper by the Chairman, and requested to continue them conversationally, and the meeting was closed long before the usual time.
The abstract of the tourmaline paper was published in the Geological Magazine; but having no reprints, I gave Professor Bonney a friendly notice that it had appeared. The Professor replied, in an equally friendly tone, offering to examine some sections of the Channel rocks for me, but with reference to the schists, declared that he did not mean to enter into any controversy on the subject until his shield was struck by a knight of equal experience.
Though having no desire for controversy, this declaration raised a difficulty. I knew Professor Bonney’s paper, so to speak, by heart, and had dismissed it as absolutely valueless. But in writing myself on the problem, I scarcely knew how to deal with the Professor, after such an intimation of his negative intentions. On taking weighty advice, I was counselled to go my own way independently, and leave my opponent alone.
This was done in my paper published in the Geological Magazine, with two very slight exceptions. Greatly fearing that my antagonist would retreat from his Archaean position, I stated his views clearly, and this little ruse succeeded beyond anticipation.
Very much to my surprise, in October following (1892), Professor Bonney attacked me violently in the Geological Magazine; after his “knight of equal experience” remark had thrown me completely off my guard, and caused me to forego the controversial advantage of a critical review of his 1883 paper. This letter was very unguarded; almost every line could be pulverized, but I merely fenced with the attack in the same periodical in the following December. However, in January, the Professor wrote a very serious letter, seeing that he was a Vice-President of the Geological Society, and I was at the time President of the Teign Naturalist Field Club, senior Vice-President of the Torquay Natural History Society, Vice-President and acting President of the Torquay Photo. Association, and Vice-President elect of the Devonshire Association; not to say a Fellow of the Geological Society, and a fellow-member with him of the Athenaeum Club. This letter charged me with misrepresentation by selective quotation, and with general ignorance. The first charge was untrue, and the second, though true, was not one for the Professor to make. To make the matter worse, within a few weeks of the publication of this letter, I was the recipient of the greatest compliment in the power of Devonshire naturalists to bestow, viz., an invitation to allow myself to be proposed as President of the Devonshire Association; an invitation I would not entertain for an instant, as its acceptance (however gratifying to personal vanity, as the last Presidential Address on Geology was from the now late President of the Geological Society) could not fail, under the circumstances, to degrade the Association in the eyes of the Geological world. Personally, when certain as to a matter of fact, I care not for the opinion of the Royal Society, Geological Society, British Association, or any other body, ignorant of that particular fact. But I am strongly of opinion that a worker who has been treated with contempt by officers of the Geological Society, and of the British Association, is not morally eligible to be the representative of a great county Society with an unblemished record of work performed.
Be that as it may, by the accident of the moment, I was a representative of nearly all our South Devon working scientific societies, and mud thrown at me would indirectly hit them. Hence my detailed criticism of Professor Bonney’s South Devon paper, printed privately and forwarded to the leading Fellows of the Geological Society, at home and abroad.* Some friends have considered it too severe; and, doubtless, between private individuals it would have been so; but it was practically a defence of provincial societies and workers against the attacks of a past president, and a member of the Council, of the Geological Society.
* “An Examination of some of the evidence advanced by the Rev. Professor T. G. Bonney, D Sc., in support of the Archaean age of the Devonshire Schists.”
Nothing further occurred in the contest until March of last year, 1894, when the report of the Geological Survey (1892) was noticed in Nature.
Referring to the Devon schists under the heading, “Devonian,”* the Director-General quotes a report of Mr. J. H. H. Teall, F.R.S., to the effect “that the detailed examination of the rocks, from the metamorphic area of South Devon, has brought to light the fact that the previously published descriptions of the green varieties of rock were very imperfect …”
* Nature, xlix. 497.
Comparison is also made between the “green rocks” of South Devon, and the Devonian rocks of the Hartz.
Let us now sum up the opinions of specialists of the Geological Survey, as to the Devonshire schists. They are as follows:
1. Not a shred of evidence, stratigraphically, that they are older than Devonian.
2. All previous descriptions of the green rocks, and therefore Professor Bonney’s, very imperfect.
3. The Devonshire “green rocks” (schists), similar to the Devonians of the Hartz.
All this evidence is entirely supplementary to my own; and it may fairly be asked whether a prima facie case for the Devonian age of the Devonshire schists has not been established: one which any Grand Jury of Geologists would send for trial?
Yet, in spite of all this consensus of evidence, Professor Bonney’s tactics have been to ignore it absolutely. On my calling attention to a special instance of such evasion in Nature, the Professor replied as follows, in the same contemptuous, incidental manner¹ he makes a practice of employing when depreciating amateurs: ” It may save time to add that I have observed how a remark of mine has again stirred up Mr. A. R. Hunt in defence of Devonian schists. In regard to his letter, I content myself with repeating what I have already said” (where?) “viz., that either I have wasted a good many years in study bearing on this question, both in the field and with the microscope, or his ‘evidence’ is of little value, and his knives of the wrong temper for the dissection which he has essayed. He will not succeed in drawing me into a controversy with him on this question. Life is short.”² My reply to this personal attack was suppressed by Nature.³
1 See ante, p. 248.
2 Nature, xlix. 576.
3 An amateur with an unorthodox fact for publication is often in a dilemma. If the point be both important and novel, the Editor of a periodical may well be in doubt as to publishing. If the latter commits it to the W. P. B. well and good; but if he refers it to an orthodox expert before doing so, he will in all probability hand the discoverer, bound hand and foot, to his opponents. So far as my experience goes, the prospect of the W. P. B., is in direct proportion to the importance of the communication. However, on the question of writing at all, a casual dinner-acquaintance at the Sheffield meeting of the British Association remarked somewhat cynically, “I never write unless I am paid for it”; a practical scientist and a wise.
Now, so far as I can gather from published papers and reports, Professor Bonney has against him in this question, Sir A. Geikie, Messrs. Somervail, Teall, and Ussher, and myself. Yet he takes his stand on the unprecedented argument that we cannot be right, because if so he must be wrong. Papal infallibility is nothing to this, for, according to Roman Catholic authorities, the Pope is only held to be infallible “when it becomes necessary to decide … what is the doctrine of the Church concerning faith or morals: then the Pope, by God’s providence, is guaranteed against deciding erroneously”.* There is no such simple way of correcting geologic error recognised by geologists.
* The Threshold of the Catholic Church (imprimatur, Cardinal Manning).
But the worst of the matter is, that not only does Professor Bonney bring his great influence to bear to stifle much-needed discussion on the Devonshire schists, but Nature, by suppressing the case for the defendant, may lead geologists unacquainted with the facts to believe that no discussion is needed.
It is well that geologists should realise the fact that, by this continued opposition to further research, an opportunity has been lost which can scarcely recur, viz., the opportunity afforded by the examination of almost every rood of the debatable ground by Mr. Ussher, in the course of his recent minute survey. Any objections or theories advanced then, could have been at once put to the test. For instance, take the case of the tourmaline rock at the Start: Mr. Ussher accepted a standing commission from me to match that rock, if possible, anywhere between the Start and the Bolt Tail. The nearest he could do for me was to produce specimens of apparently the same rock in a more advanced stage of metamorphism, with all original characters obscured. After this it is not very likely that this particular rock, retaining its sedimentary character, will be found elsewhere than at the Start, which thus becomes the final point of departure of the sandstones for the unknown region of complete metamorphism.
Friends have asked me whether I have continued the study of the Devon schists. They will see from the foregoing pages that the equable mind essential to successful research has been rendered well-nigh impossible of attainment.
Amateurs, as a rule, are very easily snuffed out. When there are so many pleasanter pursuits, there is ever the temptation to shirk the dagger of the assassin. But in the present case, so much is at stake, the battle must be fought out to the bitter end. Certain prominent petrologists have maintained that the microscope can by itself determine the age of certain rocks, of which rocks the Devon schists are examples. So the question at issue is whether this claim can be upheld. If not, half the petrology of the last two decades will vanish as mist. This momentous question can be reduced to a couple of slides, of schist and sandstone; outside of which, all the literature of petrology may be irrelevant and beside the point. Microscopists, however, have reason to be satisfied as to one thing. My own evidence is entirely based on the microscope itself; so the microscope wins in any event. Had it been left to map and hammer to prove the petrological microscope untrustworthy, it might have been many a long year before the confidence, which is its fair due, would have been re-established.
The principle involved in Professor Bonney’s rejection of evidence without examination, is of such grave importance that I trust my colleagues, one and all, will give it the attention it deserves. The obvious attempt to escape from a false position on a false issue, is too transparent to succeed. The attempt is made to lead geologists to believe that a mere tyro has ventured to pit his opinion against that of the greatest authority in the four continents. Nothing of the sort. If any student is content to accept my opinion or any one else’s, without evidence, he is worthy of all contempt. The Rev. Professor Bonney belongs to the only profession protected by law from contradiction in its public professional utterances. I have the honour to belong to a profession whose chiefs are compelled by law to give their reasons for their public judgments, and whose rank and file are expected to fortify their opinions with case and precedent, often the only evidence available under the circumstances. The gravamen of the Professor’s charge was that I attempted some of the most difficult petrological problems. Quite so. The Devonshire Association for the Advancement of Science was never established for its members to confine themselves to the study of text books and primers. The objection, no doubt, is to the examination of the Devon granites and the Devon schists; and I am free to confess, that when I commenced the study I knew little of either. The granite problem is unquestionably most difficult, while the schists are easier. Regarding the former, my only hesitation was touching a problem rendered classical by Dr. Sorby. But when Dr. Sorby was kind enough to express his approval of my attacking the problem, and when subsequently Mr. Teall offered me his collection of granites for comparison, it became almost a duty to make the attempt.
But this new doctrine that students must not attempt difficult problems, would not only be fatal to research, but has been quite unknown in scientific circles. Why, I myself have had Stokes, helping me with waves; Prestwich, with quaternary deposits; Pengelly, with caverns; Sorby, with sand grains and fluid inclusions; Ussher, with Devonian stratigraphy; Gwyn-Jeffreys, with shells; and Teall, with granites. Sometimes helping with counsel; at others, with specimens, or with literature; but all indispensable.
The investigation of the Dartmoor granite has been even more generally obstructed than that of the schists, as all Devonshire workers have been treated with much contempt.
The granite problem has, from the first meeting of the Society, engaged the special attention of the geologists of the Devon Association. Yet, in 1893, a member of the Council of the Geological Society attempts to tackle this advanced problem in an elementary and facetious paper, entitled “Notes on Dartmoor”! Referring to the granite sending off “intrusive veins from the main mass into the rocks adjoining it”, this writer gravely remarks, “this point is not so easily decided as might have been expected”! Had this inquirer turned to Mr. Pengelly’s first paper on the subject, he would have found references to records of the existence of intrusive veins, by De La Beche, Sedgwick, Murchison, Godwin-Austen, and Ormerod.¹ Had he inquired of any Devonshire geologist, he could have had special localities in abundance. This paper was an attack by a geologist not conversant with the elementary facts of the problem, on another, Mr. Ussher, thoroughly up in its details and difficulties. The discussion, as published, would have been laughable if not vexatious; the non-Survey men attacking Mr. Ussher, and his colleagues rallying to his defence. However, not a soul present seemed fully to grasp Mr. Ussher’s points. Professor Bonney could not resist a back-hander at absent Fellows of the Society, e.g., “Was there any evidence that a rock could be fused by pressure alone, any more than by a gentle stewing in seawater, which also had been suggested?”² This was aimed at Mr. Ussher and myself, and was as misleading as it was irrelevant. Fusion by pressure alone, and by gentle stewing, were but phantoms of the Professor’s brain.
1 Trans. Dev. Assoc. i. 49. (1862.)
2 Q. J. G. S. xlix. 397.
In 1894 the same author pursued his researches on the rocks of igneous origin on the western flank of Dartmoor. This is the territory of Mr. R. N. Worth, F.G.S.; who, by the bye, is scarcely referred to. In the discussion the author is congratulated on discovering augitic rocks on the western side of Cocks Tor, hitherto “completely overlooked”* and he thanks the Fellows for the sympathetic way in which they had received his paper. On receiving the Q. J. G. S., with the above paper, feeling much surprised, I referred to a work in every petrologist’s library, viz., Teall’s British Petrography. On turning to the Index of Localities, I found “Cocks Tor”, and, turning up the passage, read, “Rocks allied to the above, but frequently containing more or less original augite … occur at various points round the granite masses of Devon and Cornwall. They have been observed at Waspworthy, Brazen Tor, and Cocks Tor, near Tavistock.”
* Ibid. 1. 366.
The above is an example of the rule recently laid down for his own guidance by Professor Bonney in the following passage: “Probably there is nothing original in the results, but they are all the outcome of personal observation, for I have always preferred questioning ‘Nature’ to reading books. So, in order to economise time in searching for what has been already said, and to save studding the page with references, I will assure the reader that he is quite at liberty to suppose that ‘everything has been said by somebody some where.'”*
* Geol. Mag. 1894, p. 114.
For many years past there has been an increasing tension between professor and amateur in scientific research. In June, 1894, the Times, in an article referring to the University Extension Movement, wrote as follows: “From smatterers and dilettante amateurs there is no certain way of deliverance; but the reports of the committee of experts give us ground for believing that such enemies to real progress are not very many, and that they will probably diminish.” In the same month Professor Max Müller, writing on Germany, shows us the other side of the question: “For a philosopher who does not belong to the professorial caste to gain a hearing is extremely difficult. The best critical papers are in the hands of the professors and of their young pupils, or assistants. They notice the books of their friends, or of their rivals, either in a kindly or an unkindly spirit, but the outsider does not exist … That is what made Schopenhauer so furious, and so ill-mannered in his assaults on the whole professorial crew.”*
* Nineteenth Cen. Mag. June, 1894, p. 943.
The steady resistance to amateur work by professors, either by active obstruction or the passive boycott, has for long been an insoluble problem.
Max Müller’s terms, “Professorial Caste”, and “Professorial Crew”, seem suggestive of a clue. But, if so, the future of British research is clearly endangered; as the time seems rapidly approaching when the posts of influence, as well as “the best critical papers”, will all be “in the hands of the professors and their young pupils, or assistants”. Following out this suggestion, I made a rough analysis of the Royal Society as it was in 1892; with the following startling result. Of professors, lecturers, and readers, there were not less than 162; of medical men, not professors, fifty (medical men, inclusive of professors, ninety-eight); military men twenty-four, naval nine. Thus out of a total membership of 458, one in 2.8 was a professor, lecturer, or reader; i.e., a teacher – one in 4.7 was a medico, whereas one in 1.9 was a teacher, medico, soldier, or sailor. It would be difficult to select four more self-assertive professions, or more resentful of opposition. Under these circumstances a want of sympathy between such a body of teachers and rulers, and disrespectful independent amateurs, is quite intelligible. It is, moreover, hard to combine teaching with research without detriment to the latter. An amateur is always interested to be proved wrong, a professor never. Hence an amateur will assist his critic, whereas a professor will continue his resistance after he has no longer a leg to stand upon.
Since writing the foregoing passage the list of selected candidates for the Royal Society for 1895 has appeared; out of fifteen names, no less than six have the prefix of ” Professor”. To adapt Max Müller’s words, we can almost foresee the time when our great British Society will be entirely in the hands of the professors; with remainder to their young pupils or assistants. Many years ago, a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians informed me that no professional work would make a doctor eligible for the Royal Society; it is, therefore, much to the credit of this distinguished profession that its members can secure more than twenty per cent, of the coveted fellowship by miscellaneous research, more especially when considered in connection with the fact that one has to look outside the Society for so many specialists and pioneers, on the borderland of the natural sciences.
Perhaps no such deadly blow has ever been levelled at the credit of geology, as has been struck by the imaginative school of petrologists, and there can be no question that the general distrust of the science among thoughtful men has greatly increased of late – and justly so; for although, by virtue of stratigraphy and palaeontology, geology may still claim to be one of the inductive sciences, the mental flights of some of the leaders of the microscopical school have raised it to a high level among the masterpieces of poetry and fiction, both as to methods and results.*
* In this connection the analysis of the qualifications of the fifteen candidates selected by the Council of the Royal Society, in 1895, is interesting. Judging by their papers, the fifteen authors would be distributed among the sections of the British Association as follows: (When an author would read in two sections he is credited with 1/2 for each.)
|” D.||Biology (including Section I.)||5|
|” G.||Practical Mechanics||1½|
The collapse of Sections C. and H. is not surprising, as, at a Conference at Oxford, one speaker practically exhausted the vocabulary of doubt and conjecture in twelve minutes, and the only point proved was that the two sections thought much but knew nothing.
Two R.S. candidates declare themselves “attached to science”! Would that all the Fellows could say the same. There would be more sympathy and less obstruction for provincial students.
As an instance of Speculation v. Science, the following extract from an address, published by Nature (May 2nd, 1895, p. 21), as authoritative doctrine would be hard to beat:
“There was not only great disruption of strata, but igneous rocks forced themselves into the fissures in the sedimentary beds, and the resulting metamorphism of the adjacent rocks increased the confusion, as beds of slate may be traced through the transformation of their sedimentary character, by the re-crystallisation of their component elements into diorites having the peculiar structure of radiating crystals, which usually characterise rocks of volcanic origin.”
The article is a most interesting one to myself, as the author calls to his aid the water of the ocean to account for metallic lodes; but to call a metamorphosed slate a diorite (“The plutonic representative of the andesitic magma.” Teall, Brit. Petr. 254), because crystalline, is equal to calling the solar corona incandescent tallow, because both tallow and corona are sources of light. The subsequent electric origin of gold, by currents acting on gold dissolved in salt water, though most ingenious, and possibly true, is strong meat when delivered as doctrine from a Presidential chair, and endorsed by Nature.
From a considerable experience of the work of country societies, I am in a position to assert that there is no necessary rivalry whatever between working amateurs and professors, and that it is much to be regretted that any such rivalry should be set on foot. Amateurs assist each other as comrades working in the same cause; and as often as not, ignore the professorial dicta with the utmost innocence. If, however, the professors are anxious to stir up a provincial hornet’s nest, as seems to be the case, the hornets will undoubtedly sting, and so long as there is a printing-press in the land, not all the “best critical papers” in the world can prevent this painful result accruing. Amateurs have truly no cause to be ashamed of their status. It may be remarked that, of the last twenty-one Presidents elected up to date by the British Association, there have been no less than fourteen unable to prefix “professor” to their names. More than one of the most distinguished of these would be, according to the Times, quite typical “dilettante amateurs”, science being their recreation and not their business. After all, though sadly tautological, what more distinguished title in science can a man desire than that of a “dilettante amateur”, a lover of science who delights in it? and is it not even more honourable to be a dilettante amateur than merely “attached to science”, a merit occasionally pleaded by, or for, candidates for the Royal Society?
In connection with the Amateur and Professor question, one incident at the late meeting of the British Association at Oxford, 1894 (not in Sect. C.), was characteristic. A distinguished amateur, specially mentioned by the great Darwin in the Origin of Species as having caused him to reconsider an opinion, and one of our own past Presidents, read a paper. This was criticised by a Professor in a tone of ineffable condescension and superiority. Referring to the publication of researches in miscellaneous reports, the said Professor thought it perhaps best as it was, adding, superciliously, “one need not read them”! Clearly for him, as pointed out by Max Müller, “the outsider does not exist”. Yet in connection with such men, the outsider is apt to remember the following lines of Cowper:
“Knowledge and wisdom, far from being one,
Have oft-times no connexion. Knowledge dwells
In heads replete with thoughts of other men,
Wisdom in minds attentive to their own.
Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much,
Wisdom is humble that he knows no more.”
The following lines, too, are not without their lesson:
“Some to the fascination of a name
Surrender judgment hoodwinked. Some the style
Infatuates, and through labyrinths and wilds
Of error, leads them by a tune entranced.”
It must be borne in mind that the persistent attacks on amateurs by Professor Bonney are of no ordinary character, as the assailant is no ordinary man. The Professor is not only persona gratissima at the Geological Society,* but he accepts the position accorded him of being the most prominent – nay, the representative petrologist of Great Britain. A Fellow of Saint John’s College, Cambridge, and Professor of Geology in University College, London, he has also been the recipient of several doctor’s degrees. He is likewise a Fellow of the Royal Society, and is rarely off the Council of the Geological, of which Society he has been President, and by which he has been honoured with the Wollaston Medal, in the company of such men as De La Beche, Darwin, Sorby, and Huxley.
* During the eighteen years, 1878–1895, Professor Bonney has been six years secretary, two years President, and five years Vice-President of the Geological Society. Thirteen years in office.
All his virulent attacks on members of the Council of the Devonshire Association have emanated from him when an officer or member of the Council of the Geological Society, and apparently with the approval of that body, as he has been re-elected over and over again. Not only has this very representative man been actively hostile to the rank and file of our workers, but he has also treated the works of our distinguished founder, the late Mr. Pengelly, with culpable carelessness.
All old members of the Association will remember how often Mr. Pengelly referred to the Budleigh Salterton pebble-bed, it being also one of the Devon problems he commended to younger workers in his Presidential Address.
In a recent paper on this subject Professor Bonney,¹ in a foot-note, states that Mr. Pengelly,² considered the fossiliferous quartzites to be “practically identical with those of Gorran Haven”. However, according to Mr. Pengelly’s letter quoted, it was Mr. Etheridge who stated “that the Budleigh Salterton pebbles came from Gorran”: Mr. Pengelly having been only able to detect several specimens of but one of the Budleigh Salterton species of Brachiopoda, in either the Penzance or Truro Museums; though he observed, in situ, fossils of the same general facies in quartzites identical in structure, and even in hue, with the pebbles of South-Eastern Devonshire.²
1 Geol. Mag. 1895, p. 79.
2 Geol. Mag. 1878, p. 238.
Now let us see what Mr. Pengelly really did write of the pebbles in the following year: – “It has been suggested that their source may have been Normandy, or Brittany, or the Dodman District in South Cornwall, in each of which very similar rocks, with, at least, some identical fossils, are known to be in situ. It has also been suggested, and perhaps with greater probability, that their source was none of the foregoing localities, but a reef lying between them, perhaps a portion of a once-continuous barrier crossing the Channel, and connecting the whole. In short, by common consent, the pebbles came from somewhere between south and west of the pebble-bed.”* (Italics mine.)
* Trans. Dev. Assoc. 1879, p. 2.
We thus see that Mr. Pengelly thought it more probable that the pebbles did not come from Gorran Haven! It may be contended that Professor Bonney was unaware of the existence of Mr. Pengelly’s paper; but it so happens that it is the famous paper on the metamorphic rocks of South Devon, to which Professor Bonney, in 1883, referred his readers for the previous literature of that subject.
In writing of the pebble-bed, Professor Bonney says: “The materials, then, seem not generally to represent the rocks now exposed in Devon and Cornwall. I had expected to find a large proportion of rocks from this region, as in the case of the breccias, which are so fully exposed further west.”* Was there ever so singular a remark? Surely, if the pebbles came from Devon and Cornwall, there would be no problem as to their origin. Devon and Cornwall are not unknown to geographers, even though Dartmoor seems to have been somewhat of a terra incognita to the Geological Society, and known only to the aboriginal geologists of the district. Moreover, what evidence is there of Cornish rocks in the Devon breccias? We certainly have the Devonshire schists in the conglomerate in Bigbury Bay; but these schists were rather travelling towards Cornwall than in the contrary direction. The origin of the crystalline rocks in the Devon breccias is still a puzzle. The schorlaceous rocks of the breccias which have come under my notice, though bearing a family likeness to the Dartmoor rocks, are not identical with any I have been fortunate enough to see: though this, of course, is but negative evidence. If any have been actually traced to a Cornish origin, it is a fact which should be more generally known.
* Geol. Mag. 1895, p. 79.
Inaccurate quotations, and important assertions made without references to their authors, are the very bane of painstaking students. Mr. Pengelly, as is well known, insisted on quoting an author down to his very grammatical slips, punctuation and all. In connection with this subject, I may here remark that a passage by Mr. Pengelly himself, on the Budleigh Salterton question, was quoted by that distinguished naturalist, the late Dr. Davidson, in his Fossil Brachiopoda, in a manner almost suggestive of quotation from memory, two or three alterations distinctly affecting the author’s meaning.* No one could gather Mr. Pengelly’s mind from either the versions of Dr. Davidson or Professor Bonney. Moral, verify your quotations.
* Monograph, British Fossil Brachiopoda, vol. iv.
As Professor Bonney, without the slightest provocation, has declared he could not waste time by discussing the schist question with Mr. Somervail; and has further quite gratuitously declared that I should not succeed in drawing him into controversy on the same question, life being short (albeit, I have not the slightest desire to prevent the Professor running away if he prefers to do so), I may be permitted to point out the common tactics of our fugitive antagonist.
Professor Bonney’s first paper in the Quarterly Journal, so far as I can ascertain, was published in 1870, a few months after I myself joined the Geological Society.
It was printed in short abstract, and only occupies about three-quarters of a page of the Journal. Its subject was the “Geology of the Lofoten Islands”. When a writer is limited to so short a paper, it is usual to economise almost every word. The Professor, however, commences with a description of the scenery of the islands as viewed from the steamer, and then goes on to notice “bedding” in several crystalline rocks, viz., in “a rock resembling syenite, and in a quartzite containing a little hornblende and felspar”; and again in another “granitoid rock, resembling syenite”. “The author concluded, from his observations, that, with few exceptions, the so-called granites of the Lofoten Islands are stratified, highly metamorphosed rocks – quartzites and gneiss, generally with much felspar in the latter, and with more or less hornblende in both.* …” The only felspar named was “pink orthoclase”.
* Quarterly Journal Geol. Soc. xxvii. 623.
Now, perhaps, there is no more important paper in the Quarterly Journal, if the conclusions arrived at can be verified; as the contention is that syenite and gneiss, with orthoclase and hornblende, may be metamorphosed stratified rocks, which have not lost their original bedding; instead of being, as sometimes thought, altered crystalline rocks with a deceptive bedding-structure super-induced by pressure. I offer no opinion, but allow the Professor to provide his own commentary.
Eight years later, in describing the Charnwood Forest syenites, and defending their igneous origin, the Professor states that one of the arguments against that hypothesis was “an appearance of bedded structure”. To which he replies, “the ‘bedded structure’ is only that tendency to parallel jointing which is not rare in large masses of igneous rock”.*
* Q.J.G.S. xxxiv. 212. This may be the case in the instance above referred to, but on Dartmoor the “bedded structure” is distinct from the parallel jointing.
In 1894, in “Some Notes on Gneiss”, the Professor asks: “But was the old notion entirely wrong? Cannot a gneiss be, in any case, an altered sedimentary rock?”*
* Geol. Mag. 1894, p. 120.
It will be observed that Professor Bonney has been wandering in absolute darkness. In 1870, he assumes that even syenite may be a metamorphosed bedded rock; in 1878, he points out the error of confounding the jointing of crystalline rocks with bedding; in 1894, he inquires whether gneiss might not, in any case, be an altered sedimentary rock. He goes on to say, “There seems, however, no reason why a sediment of the proper chemical composition should not, as a result of metamorphic processes, be changed into a gneiss. But, as a rule, clays (for to some variety of this rock we must look) are rather deficient in alkalies, and seem to produce micas and minerals such as andalusite more readily than felspar.”* (Italics mine.)
* Geol. Mag. 1894, p. 120.
Now, if we must look to clay as the parent rock – and clay is commonly the result of the decomposition of potash felspar – the lack of magnesia and lime would render the production of hornblende and of syenite a physical impossibility in most cases. The limitation of gneisses to clays seems most unnecessary, as stratified volcanic ash, or ash mingled with aluminous and siliceous sediment, would supply a stratified deposit capable, so far as material goes, of being transformed into gneisses, syenites, granites, or almost any other crystalline rock, leaving the more ordinary clays to account for the more ordinary schists.*
* The composition of the Eddystone gneiss, and of its felspathic veins, is precisely such as might be expected to result from metamorphism of the schists and felspathic veins in the neighbourhood of the Bolt Head, the original sediment being, at least to some extent, of volcanic origin.
It appears to have been this disregard of the metamorphosis of volcanic rocks which has led Professor Bonney so far astray, both at the Lizard and the Prawle; whereas it was by the recognition of this very fact, in discerning the relation of the “chlorite schists” to the Devonian greenstones, that Mr. Somervail did such a lasting service to Devonshire science.
How far Professor Bonney went astray can be shown by his own papers. In his paper on the Lizard, in 1877, he describes the “granulite” and hornblende schist as follows: “Careful examination, however, shows that we have here, highly-metamorphosed and entangled in the serpentine, another mass of sedimentary rock, which has once consisted of lenticular bands of a more sandy character, in a mud whose mineral composition somewhat resembled that of hornblende. The first stage has been the conversion of the former into a kind of granulite, the latter, probably, into a hornblende schist”¹ In the concluding paragraph, the author says, “The sedimentary rocks of the Lizard are probably about Lower Devonian age.”²
1 Q. J. G. S. xxxiii. 902.
2 Loc. cit. 924.
So far as the hornblende schist was concerned, the above was an attempted correction with the microscope of Sedgwick’s view, that the hornblende schist, or part of it, called by him a greenstone, was of igneous origin. However, we see that, in 1877, Prof. Bonney pronounced these schists sedimentary, and probably Lower Devonian. In 1883, the Professor again returned to the subject with an entire change of front. Of the hornblende schist he now writes – “The result of the above examination of the hornblende schist shows that it can no longer be regarded as a metamorphic representative of the Lower Devonian (or even Silurian) strata, but that it almost certainly belongs to some part of the Archaean.”¹ The sedimentary character of the hornblendic rocks is, however, still retained, e.g. “I … am disposed to regard the group as, at any rate in the main, of sedimentary origin.”² Most surprising of all, the Professor discovered “a record of true ‘current-bedding'” in the hornblendic rocks, and of “indications of current-bedding” in the granulitic rocks! These, or some of them, are figured on Pl. 1, vol. xxxix. of the Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London.
1 Q. J. G. S. xxxix. 23.
2 Loc. cit. 19.
In 1891 Professor Bonney wrote a third time on the same rocks. The sedimentary granulitic rocks with their current bedding were now found to be volcanic rocks, the phenomena of banding being explained as follows:
“These conditions appear to be best fulfilled by the following hypothesis: That into a basic magma, which at any rate was sufficiently solid to break into fragments, an acid magma, at a very high temperature, was injected, – that either the more basic material was still somewhat plastic when this intrusion took place, or it was, by this accession of heated stuff, so far softened, that it was drawn out into streaks, and was even sometimes slightly mixed with the other by actual fusion, when movements occurred in the mass; and that afterwards, as the temperature gradually fell, the whole mass became crystalline. Thus, the banded gneissoid rock of the Granulitic Group is an example of a kind of flow-structure on a large scale, wholly, or (more probably) in part, antecedent to crystallisation.”*
* Q. J. G. S. xlvii. 477.
Our quondam sedimentary current-bedded rock has now become an example of an igneous rock formed “at a very high temperature”!
Of the Hornblendic Group, which in 1883 furnished a record of “true current-bedding”, the Professor writes:
“Thus, although our reasons cannot be fully appreciated by those who have not followed our steps, we are at present unable to suggest any form of mechanical disturbance as a complete explanation of the more banded members of the Hornblendic Group, and think that for these the stratification of an ash (perhaps by the intervention of water) is the better working hypothesis.”
But later on:
“We now feel convinced that some members of the group were originally dolerites,¹ and some structures are due to fluxion.”²
1 The point here at issue is whether the petrological microscope in Prof. Bonney’s hands can distinguish an altered dolerite from a metamorphosed “mud whose mineral composition somewhat resembled that of hornblende.” See ante, p. 265.
2 Loc. cit. 480.
It may be observed that certain unexplained structures in these rocks are thus attributed partly to fluxion, and partly to currents. It would be difficult to conceive the conditions under which similar structure could be produced in the same rock by such opposite agencies. Not having studied the Lizard rocks, I simply watch the struggle as an amused spectator; but, judging from an also unexplained incipient banded structure in the Devon schists, I anticipate that geologists will agree before long that the current-bedding hypothesis is out of the question, and the fluxion hypothesis equally so.
At the time geologists first discovered current-bedding in hornblende rocks, I had been working at the subject of ripple-mark and current-bedding myself, and my first thought was to test the theory by experiment with volcanic ash. On second thoughts, however, the suggestion seemed so highly improbable, that it seemed best to let it die a natural death. One of the fundamental difficulties is this: Current-bedding differs from sedimentation in being due to transport of material over a river-, or sea-, or lake-bottom. This transport is practically confined to sands, clay and mud being conveyed in suspension, and accumulated by sedimentation. Ripple-mark and current-mark must, therefore, not be looked for, either in recent muds or in ancient slates. It is an open question whether current-mark, as seen in sands and sandstones, could be produced in volcanic ash. It could, no doubt, be produced in a mixture of ash and sand, but there is no evidence that it could be produced in a pure volcanic deposit. But on the assumption that such were possible, it would be difficult to conceive any conditions of river, lake, or sea, subject to currents, which would not bring about an admixture of quartz-sand with the volcanic ejectamenta. If so, it is almost certain that any metamorphic processes insufficient to obliterate the current structure would also fail to obliterate traces of the original siliceous sand, easily recognised in the microscope.
In one of the cases figured by Professor Bonney, we are told expressly that the materials “appear to be mostly rather rounded grains of felspar”,* the other constituents being quartz, hornblende, and mica, a closely-twined plagioclase being very abundant. It is difficult to see whence currents could collect such materials, but if once collected, the latter would soon be distributed apart, according to weight and form. However, this case is in the granulite, which Professor Bonney now, or at least in 1891, decided to be igneous, and to show flow structure.
* Q. J. G. S. xxxix. 17.
The Lizard question does not particularly concern Devonshire geologists; but the problem of the hornblendic metamorphics is common to both the Lizard and the Prawle, and demands the closest attention.
When Professor Bonney denies the right of Devonshire men to investigate the geology of their own county, it is impossible to avoid scrutinizing closely his own claim to monopolize their great geological puzzle – the Devon schists, one of whose chief difficulties lies with the hornblendic green rocks. Now, with respect to hornblendic schists in general, the foregoing pages have shown how often Professor Bonney has changed his mind on quite fundamental points, from Lofoten to the Lizard. Although the Professor has practically staked his reputation (quite needlessly) on the Archaean age of the Devon schists, the Director-General of the Geological Survey now describes them under the heading “Devonian”, and the petrographer to the Survey mentions that previous descriptions of the green rocks have been very imperfect.* Thus, to say the least of it, competent geologists now maintain the possibility of the schists being Devonian; and the question is, therefore, one clearly open to further research and discussion. Professorial obstruction of research is not a danger to be safely disregarded, because, although, as has been seen in the case of the Devonshire Association itself, local amateur work can be very easily quenched, such work has then to remain undone, as no one but the local amateur (except, of course, the Geological Surveyor) has either the opportunity or leisure to do it. It is quite preposterous to suppose that London gentlemen, however able, can, in their flying holiday-visits, dispose authoritatively of problems which have perplexed men of at least equal ability, who have given them attention for years. We may safely take it for granted that where Mr. Pengelly and Mr. Tawney have doubted, certainty is not within easy reach; or, that where Mr. Pengelly has kept his eye and pen on a notorious problem for his whole working life, it is not safe to pay the locus in quo a hasty visit under the assumption that the problem is non-existent, the mere creature of provincial imagination. It appears to be almost an unwritten law among scientists (I use this word, as Mr. Pengelly commonly did, as distinguishing science from philosophy; the same great distinction as between “talent” and “genius”), either to ignore the work of an opponent, who is not a personal friend; or, to attack the man himself tooth and nail.
* Nature, xlix. 497.
Trained as I had been at the meetings of the Torquay Natural History Society, I was fairly taken aback by a retort of Sir Andrew Ramsay at one of the first meetings of the Geological Society which I attended. He was vexed by some remark made on a paper, and, in replying, he fairly hissed out, “I thought I was addressing the Geological Society of London, and not an elementary school!” Can we conceive such a remark made by a member of the Council from the platform of the Devonshire Association? I registered a vow there and then never to venture a remark before the Geological Society, a vow which has been kept. Sir Andrew’s victim was no doubt a prominent geologist, or he would scarcely have been speaking at the Geological Society, and such a thrust would do him no harm; but very few amateurs care to face such stabs, and speedily turn to more congenial occupations; if, however, they do not do so, there is the greatest risk that their main object will quite insensibly change its character. The desire to defeat the adversary will take the place of the honest search for truth; and then nothing but disaster can befall the scientific pugilist.
As my own investigations have been solely due to the Devonshire Association, and my experiences are doubtless the common lot of the amateur, a brief sketch may, perhaps, interest a Society, which, by its early encouragement, is the true author of all my papers. Without the Devonshire Association, not a line would have been written.
In every case my subjects have sought me; not I my subjects. And in nearly every case, I have been able to bring that happy ignorance to my tasks, which precludes the possibility of prejudice and preconception. Owing to lack of memory, history has always been a very weak point, and of numismatics I know nothing. But my first paper was on History and Numismatics.* It, I believe, led to an invitation to become (if I forget not) an original member of the Historical Society, which invitation I at first was inclined to regard as a hoax; and it also elicited the warm commendation of a gentleman who had been in the Coin-room, at the British Museum. This I took for chaff; and I had to ask, “Do you really think it a good paper?” This approval was encouraging, and no doubt, had not I done what I could to record and analyse the evidence of the Blackpool coins, that interesting find would have been lost entirely to science. That paper was the first original paper, as distinguished from an essay, which I ever wrote. Read at the Torquay Society, Mr. Pengelly persuaded me to send it to the Devonshire Association, where it had to go unattended by its author, as the bare idea of standing on a platform and reading a paper was sufficient.
* Trans. Dev. Assoc. vi. 197.
My next subject was equally uncongenial. Of conchology I knew nothing, and cared nothing. But circumstances led to my preserving a large aplysia, or sea hare, with the intention of describing it to the Torquay Natural History Society from Forbes and Hanley, and Gwyn-Jeffreys. Doctors differed: so I worked up the subject for several years, set the malacologists and conchologists by the ears: the latter asserting that the large sea-hares were A. depilans, the former agreeing with me that they were over-grown A. punctata. The result being that, thanks to Mr. Gwyn-Jeffreys’ candour in acknowledging that he had described A. depilans from a badly preserved specimen, I believe I have turned A. depilans out of the British fauna. However, my amateur work was taken up subsequently by my friend Mr. A. Garstang, and the problem cannot well be in better hands, whatever be the final conclusion.
Dredging in Torbay, suggested “Notes on Torbay”, discussing both the fauna, and the action of waves on the bottom. This paper dealt with a difficult subject for a non-mathematician, and to guard against blunders in this line Lord Rayleigh most kindly looked through the manuscript for me. The subject was now followed up by experiments in a special tank, and a paper on “Ripple-mark” was submitted to the Royal Society, which touched also on the influence of waves on the marine fauna. This latter problem was, I believe, novel, and certainly important, and a paper was prepared for the Linnean Society. On submitting this paper to Mr. Gwynn-Jeffreys, F.R.S., a past-president of the Linnean, he advised my trying to get it communicated to the Royal Society, and left it at that Society’s rooms to await my decision. Now the Royal Society had not appreciated my former paper, and I did not know of a soul in it who would care to hear more of waves and fauna from an outsider. The paper was written for the Linnean, but the question was how to get it there. As the paper was already at the Royal, I determined, in my dilemma, to refer the question to a scientist, and more than a scientist, who had, I believe, been President of both Linnean and Royal, and whose praises I had heard sung for his kindness to a relative of my own. Five minutes would have sufficed to decide whether this short paper, the result of years of thought, was suited to the Linnean, and none could tell me better than my referee. It is, I believe, the only case in which I have been refused scientific assistance, so I quote the reply in extenso.*
* Since the above was written, science has had to deplore the loss of the distinguished author of the letter in question, Professor Huxley. The letter is quite explicable on the assumption that it was written not by Huxley the great naturalist, but by Huxley the controversialist, who in his later years devoted so much of his valuable time to the attempt to enforce the submission of reluctant ecclesiastics to his own opinions.
“May 9th, 1884.
“Sir, – I regret that it is impossible for me to undertake to read papers, with a view to deciding whether they are fit for presentation to a Society.
“Your obedient Servant,
Needless to say, my correspondent was a professor. Not an amateur in the kingdom would have, under the circumstances, adopted such a tone to a fellow-student. The letter is interesting both for style and signature. It proved the best answer to my enquiry, and confirmed my reluctance to submit the paper to the Royal Society. Mr. Gwyn-Jeffreys kindly resumed charge of it, and communicated it to the Linnean.
The Linnean paper was practically the outcome of my Devon Association paper, “Notes on Torbay”, and it may possibly interest some of our members to know how it fared. I had shirked attending the Royal Society when Ripple-mark was submitted, and would have done the same by the Linnean, had not Mr. Pengelly insisted that my absence would show disrespect to the Society. Shortly after my arrival in town, I picked up a Standard in the hotel reading-room, and was somewhat staggered to find my humble paper advertised as one of the events of the following evening, in the notices of meetings. The following afternoon a telegram came to hand with an invitation to dine at the Linnean Club. After dinner, Mr. Gwyn-Jeffreys drove me to Burlington House. On the way, I sounded him as to the apparent links between Trochus zizyphinus and T. granulatus, a really very perplexing question. The great conchologist was a stickler for the immutability of species, and he decided the point by saying, “Oh, but after all, a species is a species”! From the moment my fate was sealed that I must accompany my paper, I had been on the stretch, in what Devonians would call “a proper flitter”, and the crisis was reached when, after preliminary business had been transacted, the Vice-President, in the chair, requested me, in the suavest of tones, to expound my paper to the meeting; a crowded meeting, too. This was beyond my powers, and I read it through from beginning to end. After the meeting, Mr. Gwyn-Jeffreys was good enough to ask me to join the Society, and when I had proved to him my entire unfitness for the fellowship, he summoned a botanist, whose name was a household word: him I thought to discomfit by exclaiming, “I know no botany, and no systematic zoology”. He calmly replied, “We have plenty of systematic zoology here”. Then Mr. Gwyn-Jeffreys said, “If your objection is financial I will say no more”. This was conclusive, and I left the matter in the hands of these genial naturalists. I believe they were wrong; any young professor would pluck me on the elements of zoology, and on botany I could not answer a question; but the cheer and support which those kind words of welcome afforded, are beyond my powers to express.
The only possible explanation that occurs to me why the Linnean Society should have been so sympathetic, whereas the Royal and Geological have been so much the other way, is that the first-named was much less under professorial rule.
As the Linnean paper was highly condensed, and dry to a degree, I continued my work in the form of a lecture to the Torquay Natural History Society. Having taken in Nature from the first number, and that periodical being addicted to publishing lectures in extenso or abstract, enquiry was made whether the editor would entertain the idea of giving publicity to my “Waves and Fauna”. The proposal was very civilly declined, without any request even to see the manuscript. Knowing of no other means of effectual publication, I had no option but to drop the research, which was accordingly done. However, the subject can afford to wait, though no evolutionist can afford to ignore it, and in the meantime my thanks are due, more especially, to Lord Rayleigh, Sir G. G. Stokes, the Rev. A. Cooke, and to the Brixham fisherman, Mr. George Hayden, who all, in one way or another, materially assisted me in my enquiry.
A problem intimately connected with waves and shoals is the origin of rounded sand-grains. It is no easy matter to distinguish sands rounded by wind, sands rounded by waves, and sands derived from quartz rounded in the parent matrix, yet it is most important that geologists should not confound these varieties. Now, in 1886, I sent in a paper to the British Association at Birmingham on “Denudation and deposition experimentally considered”; a subject of much importance to geologists, and one in which serious blunders have been made as to the action and point of attack of plunging waves. In this paper I demonstrated the lines of plunge on different slopes, and proved by experiment the persistence of the wave depression to the very last. Unfortunately, my constant antagonist, Professor Bonney, was Sectional President, and in his address promulgated the heresy that rounded sand-grains almost necessarily indicated aeolian action, i.e. the action of wind. My own paper was treated with the utmost disrespect, my name being even omitted from the Sectional Committee; an unusual slight to an old member, and an almost unheard-of one to an old member communicating a paper. Thus I was unable to obtain any tidings of my paper, and it was only by almost unseemly importunity that it was given a grudging place, last but one, on the last day in the sub-section of Section C. Now, it must not be assumed this was such a very bad paper. It was subsequently privately printed, and dedicated by special permission to Lord Rayleigh. Professor Bonney’s dictum from the chair, that rounded sand-grains implied wind action, seemed calculated to lead to much confusion, so I proposed a short paper on the rounding of sand-grains to the Geological Society, addressing my letter officially to the Secretaries. It never reached them, and ultimately, both the President and Assistant-Secretary deemed the paper, or possibly the subject, scarcely suitable for the Society.* The Society probably still believes that waves cannot round sand-grains, because sands on beaches are mostly crushed and angular. It may be observed that not only were my experiments and observations fortified by the mathematical conclusions of such physicists as Rayleigh and Stokes, but I was in correspondence with the only geologist whose opinion I desired, viz., Dr. Sorby. The paper was re-written for the Devonshire Association, and as I would not wittingly, without the greatest care, publish anything in conflict with Dr. Sorby (as, in any question at issue, the presumption would be in favour of so accurate an observer), I submitted one apparent difficulty to him, but only to receive the explanation that our observations were not inconsistent.
* My letters to the Geological Society appear as an appendix. The situation was not devoid of a certain spice of humour.
It was obvious that it was useless bringing questions of physical geology either before the British Association or the Geological Society. In the meantime a singular coincidence had occurred. A note on a curious tank-experiment connected with the position of lighthouses on reefs had been suppressed by a prominent weekly. Profoundly disgusted with Section C. I sought at Manchester the practical atmosphere of the engineers, and was vastly interested by Professor Osborne Reynolds’ paper on “Experiments on a small scale” (Estuaries), and Sir James Douglass’ comments thereon. In a few days I found myself the only engineering layman, on one of the most important committees of the year: with the great authority on lighthouses as chairman, and Professor Osborne Reynolds as secretary. It was eminently one of those committees which should consist of two members with one absent. The work was subsequently magnificently done by the secretary, who proved to demonstration the trustworthiness of what may be termed model tides and currents. As the committee was not convened the first year, there was no small commotion at Bath, in 1888, as to what had become of it; and it fell to my lot to appear before the engineers in their section-room, and plead for its re-appointment – perhaps, the best day’s work that can be laid to my credit.
In 1889, some unexpected observations on the Dartmoor granite suggested a new theory, viz., that although many of the granitic phenomena were post-Carboniferous, the rock was a partially re-dissolved granite of much greater age. This problem was submitted to the Devon Association, and an abstract sent to the British. It occurred to me that the paper might fare better without its author. And so it did, the entire abstract being printed in the Times.
The following winter was devoted to the study of the fluid inclusions in the Dartmoor granites and veins; a very attractive problem, and, probably, the key to the whole question. This problem could be expounded in twelve minutes, and a paper of that length was prepared for reading at Leeds. There was no press for time, and the Secretary said I might have my twelve minutes. The Sectional Chairman, however, suppressed me at ten – and a paper without its conclusion is usually a lame affair. In opening the discussion, the Chairman acknowledged his ignorance of the subject; yet his parting shot, as I left the platform, was in effect a taunt that I could not defend my position. Such a rebuke from the chair is damning, and the reporters naturally omitted even the title of my paper – a better than the one which the year before had been published at length. The fact was, my paper was made a hook on which to hang Vesuvius; and, as granitic questions are often far enough removed from volcanic ones, I was not equal to the occasion. I knew my own subject, but not every other.
To my contention that the Dartmoor chlorides are chiefly of sodium, it was suggested they might be of potash, because Vesuvius emits chloride of potash. My answer, no doubt, should have been that the point was immaterial, that the chlorine was the important element in the case, but that sodium had been recorded in granitic chlorides by Sorby.* However, it is very easy to trip a man up on side issues. It is quite conceivable that the chlorine might be dissociated from its sodium, or potassium, and then re-combined at a lower temperature; but this hypothesis goes out of the way to seek needless difficulties. It is far simpler to accept – at any rate as a working hypothesis – the direct derivation of the sodium chloride from the sea-water at a temperature high enough for quartz-forming, but not for dissociation of the elements of the chlorides.
* “Liquid inclusions containing cubic crystals of common salt occur in the diorite of Quenast, Belgium.” Teall, Brit. Petrography, 26.
As the Dartmoor research seemed only calculated to excite hostile opposition, that also was dropped.
No further paper would have been submitted to the British Association, had not detrital tourmaline been detected in the metamorphic rocks of the Start, a discovery calculated to throw fresh light on a point where it was sadly needed. A short paper on the subject was read at Cardiff, a petrological one, which unfortunately was taken with a stratigraphical one by Mr. Ussher, thus greatly complicating the discussions on the two. In the end the discussion was abruptly closed by the Chairman, though, as it happened, one of the Secretaries had just given the speaker a hint that it was rather an object to keep the debate going; as the business of the morning had been disposed of more rapidly than anticipated. However, it seemed fated that every problem from the West of England, however influentially supported privately, should be officially repressed. In every case the private encouragement had been remarkable, and not the least so at Cardiff, where just before reading my paper, the Director-General of the Geological Survey had in the committee-room openly remarked on my metamorphic specimens, that he thought it quite possible they were Devonian. Since then he has himself described the Devonshire schists under the heading “Devonian”.
It was impossible to be blind to the fact that all my three problems, of denudation and deposition, the chloride inclusions, and the detrital tourmaline, had been accorded a reception by the British Association which had been positively rude – not privately, but officially. I determined for the future to read no papers, and make no remarks. The last resolution it was impossible to keep, as the next year, at Edinburgh, I was present when Mr. Ussher read a paper on Dartmoor, and it might seem unfriendly on my part to let it pass in silence. Professor Bonney was, unfortunately, the Vice-President in the chair. My remarks were limited to one question and one observation. I merely asked if Mr. Ussher had decided that the Devon schists were Lower Devonian, they being so coloured on his map. This was, of course, a most interesting point on which to elicit a public utterance. My remark was simply that as Mr. Ussher in his Dartmoor researches had not trodden on my toes, I need say nothing more. Thus I asked a question for information, and expressed a general concurrence with Mr. Ussher’s conclusions. Extraordinary to say, this offended Professor Bonney, who sought to chastise me forthwith from the chair. And this is how he did it. Premising that he knew my Dartmoor views because I had sent him a paper, he went on to say that I rested my world on an elephant, the elephant on a tortoise, and the tortoise on a few microscopical crystals of chloride of sodium!* It was obviously irrelevant to drag all this in for the sole object of public ridicule. This was the fourth unprovoked official attack from the British Association, so with an emphatic protest I left the hall. Not content with this, the Professor attacked me most impertinently in the Geological Magazine in the subsequent autumn and winter; followed up by a thrust in the back at the Geological Society, and finally by the Parthian-dart shot in the columns of Nature already referred to. It must not, however, be assumed that he was allowed to have it entirely his own way.
* Such sarcasm may possibly suit an elementary class, but scarcely Sec. C. It is, however, a warning not to send Professors reprints.
The Edinburgh incident had its humorous side, as so many such incidents have. The tragedy of the drama lay in the fact that a paper honoured by the Devon Association had been held up to the ridicule of the geologists of the world. The comedy lay in the further fact that the two worst blots in that paper must be laid to the door of its critic, and that the paper itself was absolutely safe-guarded against successful attack. To explain: owing to press of time, I had been unable to check my facts and arguments to my own satisfaction, but it was expedient not to delay publication. So to guard against the possibility of unwary readers being led astray, I took the strong course of heading my paper with the monitory motto, peculiarly applicable to a treatise on salt, “Cum grano salis“. One might suppose such humility would disarm venomous criticism, or, at any rate, that it would be patent to any opponent that he was openly invited to doubt as much as he pleased. Not so, however; my antagonist, as almost invariably the case, rushes headlong into the trap.
In the second paragraph of the paper in question, it was plainly stated that I desired to see my problems and doubts “solved and settled by those competent for the task”. How much more seemly it would have been for the Chairman of the Geological Section of the British Association to have thrown some light on these problems, instead of going far out of his way to attack a fellow-student. The two blots referred to were the allowing weight to Professor Bonney’s contention that the Channel granites and Devonshire schists were Archaean; and the following Miss Raisin, who followed Professor Bonney in identifying one of the schist-minerals as kyanite. All arguments of mine based on these premises must, of course, collapse. Evidence at present certainly tends to the conclusion that there are Archaean granites in the English Channel (e.g., No. 19), but as the Devon schists are clearly Devonian, and the Eddystone gneiss probably so, my agreement with Professor Bonney to this extent is but a coincidence. Although in science discussion is the soul of progress, it must be a bona fide friendly encounter, in which each combatant tries to do his opponent the service of winnowing the chaff from his grain. When the threshers lay their flails along each other’s backs instead of on the corn, useless fighting takes the place of useful work.
There is, perhaps, nothing more inspiriting to a student sure of his facts, than to be in a minority of one. Such has been my privilege as to the following dozen moot points, viz., (1) the formation of ripple-mark by wave-currents; (2) the rounding of sand-grains on shoals; (3) the pre-Devonian age of the Dartmoor granite; (4) the marine origin of the chloride inclusions in its quartzes; (5) the mode of formation of adjacent brine and fresh-water inclusions; (6) the Lower Devonian age of the Start quartz-schists; (7) the Devonian age of the Eddystone gneiss; (8) the influence of wave-currents on the marine fauna; (9) the identity of the British Aplysia depilans with A. punctata; (10) the in situ character of a certain granite south of the Eddystone; (11) Dartmoor tourmaline not directly derived from mica or felspar; (12) wave disturbance at forty fathoms, and over. Whether correct or not, in each of these cases, so far as I know, my views at one time or another have not been shared by a single colleague, but neither have my positions been shaken. Up to a certain point, opposition is of great value to a student, but it may be carried too far. Of fair criticism there can scarcely be too much. For instance, it is impossible to over-estimate the value of Mr. Pengelly’s “Notes and Notices”, in which year by year he pointed out inaccurate statements concerning Devonshire geology.* It is too much the custom among geologists to leave their opponents severely alone, with the result that two reciprocally contemptuous students often blunder along their solitary paths, instead of by mutual assistance making the journey easier for both. When professorial trades unionism enters into the question, active opposition takes the place of indifference, and the cry is “‘Ere’s a stranger, let’s ‘eave ‘arf a brick at him!” This does not facilitate the stranger’s upward climb. It impedes it.
* For years not a sentence of mine was published without a defence being ready for well-nigh every dot and comma, in case of attack by my master and trainer, Mr. Pengelly. One such attack was made, but I was more frightened than hurt, and no single joint of the armour was pierced. Mr. Pengelly’s conduct was most chivalrous. He gave me timely notice of the intended onslaught, and then, when I had hit him back as hard as I could, he gave me further notice he intended to let the subject drop. Whereupon I, of course, regretted having hit quite so hard. See “Reply to a Recent Critique.” Trans. Dev. Assoc. xv. 202.
Indeed, careful co-operation is equally necessary between colleagues, as was curiously exemplified in the case of a paper published in our Transactions, “The Thatcher Raised Beach, its Shells and their Teaching”. This paper may be said to owe its existence to my friend Mr. D. Pidgeon’s enthusiastic work in identifying the shell fragments which I from time to time collected. Owing to the comminuted condition of both shells and beach material, Mr. Pidgeon used constantly to point out to me the abnormal character of the beach; and to express his scepticism that it was a beach at all. For my own part, I should as soon question the accuracy of the multiplication table because a problem in arithmetic presented difficulties, as question the genuineness of the Torbay raised beaches because some of their phenomena were hard to explain. However, Mr. Pidgeon read a paper to the Geological Society on the ” So-called ‘Raised Beaches'”, in which he denied they were beaches; and in the discussion another very good friend of mine denied they were raised. This was questioning the raised beach multiplication-table with a vengeance. Some time afterwards Professor Prestwich read a paper to the Geological Society, dealing with raised beaches, in which he mentioned my own work with much kindness, but absolutely ignored the paper aspersing the character of our classical old beaches.
I am confident that had Mr. Pidgeon visited the beaches, instead of relying entirely on my material, their large base stones, stratification, blown sand, and beach-platforms cut out of the rock, would have satisfied him as to their genuineness as true beaches; leaving still outstanding the point he had so shrewdly detected, viz., the extraordinary character of their angular debris and broken shells. I take blame to myself not to have paid more attention to Mr. Pidgeon’s warnings as to these unusual characters, but, being quite absorbed with “the shells and their teaching”, I failed to appreciate the significance of Mr. Pidgeon’s observations. At present the matter stands thus. It is an open question with the Geological Society whether there are any raised beaches in Devonshire. If such there be, Mr. Pidgeon’s facts have still to be accounted for.
Having mentioned Professor Prestwich’s paper, I may call attention to one point concerning the detached blocks of stone trawled in the Channel. Nothing can exceed the graciousness of the Professor’s references to my raised-beach and Channel researches, researches which owe much to his own kindness in sending me valuable old papers, by Godwin-Austen, and others. But in giving me credit for being with him in the belief that the Channel blocks are erratics, he pays me a compliment entirely undeserved. I have stoutly maintained throughout that the blocks, as a whole, represent rocks which form the Channel floor, and that a granite, No. 19, was actually torn off the parent rock by the trawl-rope. There are a great many arguments which might be adduced in favour of the foreign origin of the blocks, and as many or more in favour of their being in situ, when not disturbed and carried about by the trawlers. To solve this question would require a good deal of time, a good deal of money, and much petrological skill – three strands not always found in the same rope.
The position of the amateur is but ill-understood by the advocates of the endowment of research, and of professorial science. The amateur scientific crew are much like the crew of the cruiser Undaunted, for whom their captain, Lord Charles Beresford, provided the bugle call, Undaunteds be ready, Undaunteds be steady, Undaunteds look out for a job.” Nothing could describe the amateur’s position more precisely: he must be undaunted, always ready, always steady, and on the constant look out for a job. While the professorial battleship has to keep station, to be in touch with the rest of the fleet, and to be complete to the minutest detail, and her captain a perfect strategist, liable by the chance of war to succeed at any time to the chief command; the cruiser may be called upon at any moment to do anything, from engaging an enemy at overpowering odds, to warning his own Admiral he is running into danger. When a British captain has to engage an enemy on land, or at sea, it is marvellous how blind he is as to whether he can reasonably anticipate success. And the metaphor can be carried still further; for it has happened that cruisers have occasionally been executing their orders, while their Admirals have been engaged in ramming each other to destruction. Certainly, our Devonshire Geological cruisers, from our old Commodore, Mr. Pengelly, downwards, have never paused a moment to calculate odds; and indeed, from the stirring times of Good Queen Bess, and of the Spanish Armada, the Devon shipmen have rarely failed to hang on to any unwieldy enemy who has appeared in their waters, and to render an excellent account of themselves. Truly, our comrade, Mr. Somervail, deserves well of his adopted county for having alone, and amid public derision, hung on to that cumbrous foe the Archaean hypothesis, when it obtained a brief foothold on our southern coasts, never relaxing his hold till other Devon shallops dashed in to the rescue; and then, after having drawn the enemy’s fire, and so called attention to the fray, our comrade, like many another before him, quietly retires, almost unnoticed.
Perhaps, of all sciences in England, Geology is the most singularly situated, studied as it is by three distinct sets of students, viz., professors, professionals, and amateurs. Besides the teaching staff of professors, we have Government officers on the Survey and in the National Museum; and these in addition to amateurs. The chief distinction seems to rest with the mere fact of teaching. Pupils must, to some extent, be taught dogmatically, and it is hard for a teacher to have to change front before his class. Between the dogma of the professor and the working hypothesis of the geological surveyor there can be nothing in common. In fact, until the stage of the working hypothesis is long past, that of dogma is scarcely in sight. The surveyor attacking an appointed task, in order to marshal his facts and sort his evidence, finds it convenient to work, so to speak, by trial and error. Assuming some probable hypothesis, he tests it by every new discovery, until the hypothesis either breaks down completely, or, gradually growing in strength, imperceptibly becomes a theory. It is most important to remember that the working hypothesis is often but the means to an end, the scaffold to erect the building, liable to alteration at any time, and finally to removal: and further, that the rejection of a once-favoured hypothesis is not the sign of a weak man, but of a strong one. The amateur rarely has a working hypothesis, as he seldom attempts a set task. It is for him, generally, to take note of isolated facts, often during a long course of years, and his method is to follow the facts wherever they lead him. To give one instance from my own experience. A fisherman sent in a soda-water bottle, half full of muddy sand, which narrowly escaped being rejected as worthless: the contents were examined, referred to Mr. D. Pidgeon, who in turn consulted Mr. Gwyn-Jeffreys; and a marvellous collection of shells identified. Bottle ground on outside, not inside: encrusted with serpulae. At a meeting, Lord Kelvin mentions long waves recorded by Sir G. G. Stokes. A letter is addressed to Sir G. G. Stokes, with particulars of the bottle. Sir G. G. Stokes calculates the wave disturbance at 40 fathoms, and finds it sufficient to account for abrasion of the bottle. Thus, convincing evidence is obtained of the intermittent action of waves on the sea-bottom at considerable depths. In such a case as this no working hypothesis is desirable. We have to ascertain whether waves can roll about a bottle, at long intervals, in about 40 fathoms; and it is advisable not to assume the answer before studying each step in the problem. Working hypotheses should rarely be celebrated in type. Artists are not in the habit of sending their palettes to the Royal Academy, though the palette is the means to the end of the finished picture. Just as the expression of opinion is the confession of ignorance, so the working hypothesis is the admission of uncertainty; and to return once more to Mr. Pengelly’s admirable dictum – “We want to hear what Mr. X. knows, not what he thinks.” The opinion of the professor is too often the curse of the student, an artificial barrier across an otherwise practicable path – a sign-post with its arms reversed.
The future of geology in England is most uncertain. Some thirty years ago the brunt of the battle was borne by amateurs – Lyell, Murchison, Darwin, Godwin-Austen, Prestwich, Sorby, Pengelly, and other such. In those days there was no professional training, and very few professors. Indeed, originally, geology was but a branch of mineralogy, and the object of the Geological Society, to study the mineral structure of the earth. Now it is different. An influential body of scientists aims at the endowment of research, and this involves the substitution of the dictum of the Professor for the free speech and discussion of the amateur. It may be objected that I have called Professor Prestwich an amateur, but, as Sir John Lubbock has pointed out, that distinguished geologist was a merchant before he was Professor of Geology at Oxford. (The Use of Life, p. 48.) In the case of an amateur, however distinguished, his knowledge represents no pecuniary equivalent, and may be as freely asked as it is invariably freely bestowed, but in the case of the professional scientist, it would be as unfair to expect from him his professional knowledge gratuitously, as it would be to expect the same from doctor or lawyer. On one occasion, desiring an item of information from a young analystic Professor on a question of water, I wrote him a civil letter, offering, in case I was guilty of a breach of etiquette, a fee of a guinea. As might be anticipated, the letter was unanswered. Had my amateur correspondents acted in a similar way, almost every one of my researches would have fallen through.
Theoretically, omniscient professors with unlimited leisure, and fully endowed, would be the scientific Utopia. But unfortunately, professors are not omniscient, and their very professional duties take up time that might be devoted to research. In many instances, an amateur living within sight of a problem may, in the course of his life, glean important facts, from which a Professor, in the course of a well-earned week’s holiday, may be, by force of circumstances, debarred. The amateur who visits a new railway-cutting every day of its excavation may secure facts, to be concealed for evermore by the grass that will ere long cover its slopes. It is difficult to see how, in the interests of science, “those enemies to true progress”, as the Times dubs amateurs, can be entirely dispensed with, and it is equally hard to see, if young professors so think of them and treat them, how they will ultimately survive. I write rather of the future than the present, and not at all of the past. Conscious as I am of invaluable assistance from Professors Boyd-Dawkins, Prestwich, Rayleigh, and Stokes, it could not be otherwise; but in the meantime, it is doubtful whether either of these distinguished specialists would stigmatize amateurs the enemies of true progress. The only progress amateurs oppugn is retrograde, if so glaring a bull may be pardoned.
Of “Fellowship” in scientific societies there seems but little, the term being an instance of “survival”. It is bad policy, however, to discourage the subscription-paying crowd. In my own case, whereas the co-operation and esprit du corps of the Devonshire Association, and Torquay Natural History Society, have been of inestimable advantage, the Royal Society, the Geological, and the British Association have been purely obstructive, making work, already difficult, almost impossible.
Having many intricate problems on hand, in which the difficulties have been clearly defined, I have listened most attentively to the experts at the British Association, but their remarks, unlike “Homocea”, have ever failed to “touch the spot”.* The language of petrologists is too often both sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal. It is the commonest thing to find rocks described as containing opacite, ferrite, viridite, and a mineral which is either felspar or quartz. This sounds learned, but is a pure statement of ignorance. Some minerals are, no doubt, opaque; others green; many have some connection with iron; others are transparent, and the odds are, are felspar or quartz. There are few other things they can be without instant detection. Most of the Dartmoor granites can be correctly described as composed of transparentite, translucentite, opacite, greenite, and brownite, with occasional crystals of blueite and yellowite. This, however, is not sufficient for the student, who desires either to learn what a mineral is, or to ascertain that its exact character is unknown. Take the case of chlorite and viridite: both may be translated greenite. Now, chlorite is a secondary mineral of known composition. Viridite, if not chlorite, is usually hornblende, and to call it viridite is to express ignorance of the only point which it is essential to know, no doubt in a very learned sort of way. If, whenever a petrologist had not proof of the character of a mineral, he would either leave it alone, or call it agnostite, ignorantite, or some such name, it would simplify papers immensely. What a student desires to ascertain is what is known. Guesses are of no manner of interest. When a traveller in a new country asks the road, he requires a plain answer, one way or the other. A sign-post is of greater value than the most learned disquisition on the probable direction of his goal. To the wayfarer in the less beaten tracks of science, the sign-post, it may be noted, is as often outside the Royal Society as in it. Of the friends who helped me in my zoological work, Messrs. Gwatkin, Cooke, Marshall, Pidgeon, Stebbing, and Norman were all then without the pale, though the last-named has since passed within it. In South Devon my chief colleagues, Messrs. Harker, Somervail, Tawney, Ussher, and Worth, have all been outside the great divide, and per contra, strange to say, the resistance of the anvil, so necessary to all the best hammer-work, has been supplied by the Societies. My paper on “Ripple-mark”, subsequently favourably mentioned by Forel, de Candolle, G. H. Darwin, and others, and now actually cited in geological text-books, was returned by the secretaries with a request to have it shortened, if possible. They had, however, to take it or leave it. This paper was severely left alone in the President’s annual review of papers.
* Referring to the well-known advertisement.
In connection with the above paper, one or two amusing incidents may be noticed. The investigation comprised two novel points of principle, and one of detail, i.e. (1) proof that oscillating waves could be studied by means of models, and that the behaviour of the model waves was in accord with the mathematical theory of waves. (2) The vast question of the variation of the forms of marine animals induced by waves. (3) The demonstration of the manner of formation of ripple-mark in sand, so far as concerns the Geologist. My conclusions differed from those of Dr. Sorby in so far that they tended to prove that oscillating wave-currents had been too much overlooked in favour of continuous currents; so that “ripple-drift” had been treated as the rule instead of the exception. Now, of course, I might have accentuated this, and tried to pick holes in the work of a man whose pencil I was scarcely worthy to cut, and who has always treated me with the utmost kindness. I determined to confine myself to my own experiments and observations. Presently, my manuscript came back, referring me to Dr. Sorby’s works, and with a request for curtailment. It may be noted that, after all, my three subjects only took eighteen pages between them. In response to this, I added a diplomatic paragraph minimising to the utmost my difference from Dr. Sorby, and I may have possibly cut out a few lines, but when a paper has been already condensed to the best of the author’s ability, it is no easy matter to mutilate it to please outsiders, without serious injury to its value as a whole. That paper, from that day to this, has never been discussed, though now cited as an authority, and I was informed on the best authority that it had been unfavourably received. Before publication, the famous soda-water bottle had come to hand, confirming my other observations in the most striking manner. A note of a few lines was accordingly added, but this was unceremoniously omitted. The two main principles established by this paper, viz., the efficacy of models, and the influence of waves on fauna, have never, I believe, been noticed by the Society. Let us see how this despised paper, or its principles, were received elsewhere. (1) Mentioned in the British Association’s Presidential Address at Montreal; (2) handsomely recognised by Douglas and Reynolds in their appointment of its author as a member of the Estuaries Committee; (3) commended by Forel, de Candolle, G. H. Darwin, and P. H. Gosse; and (4) finally recognised by the exceedingly complimentary election to the Linnean Society. Yet I am confident that had it not been for the influential position of the Fellow who communicated this paper, all three researches would have been promptly suppressed by the Royal Society of London.
There is not the smallest doubt that had I studied physiology under a Professor, and devoted my spare time to mincing live monkeys, or some such cheerful occupation, the latter-day road to fame, the work would have been discussed, and the way thereby made smooth: but, for steady research of the old sort, there is but a poor market nowadays; unless the goods are duly branded with the professorial iron, published cum privilegio. Indeed, what with Professors professing they will not listen to evidence; or too busy to afford students five minutes of time devoted to polemics; or suppressing essential discussion in their one-sided journals; British science is going the best way to fairly earn the scepticism and covert contempt it too often gets from an indifferent public. And the scepticism of the public is a very genuine thing.*
* … “it would not surprise one to hear the contrary view laid down authoritatively any day; for science is hardly more stable in its views than the British Electorate.” – Spec. Corresp. Times, Aug. 6, 1895.
I remember once at a conversazione showing a gentleman a slide of fossil desert sand, and telling him how the slide proclaimed an arid desert, a river, and a lake. He did not think I was a knave, and was too polite to say I was a fool, but clearly thought so. Yet the chain of evidence was almost as complete as could be wished.
In connection with the Royal Society, one or two Devon Association incidents may be of interest X, Y, and Z were three old members, of whom X was F.R.S. Then came Y to Z, declaring that if X was F.R.S., there was no reason whatever why he, Y, should not put up too. Y accordingly became a candidate. Thereupon, immediately came X to Z declaring that if Y got in, the fellowship was not worth having. Z, the confidant of both friends, chuckled greatly over this. However, must confess that Y rather overrated his claims. He was, no doubt, an able general practitioner, but X and Z were both specialists and authorities in their respective lines of study.
One disappointment pained me, perhaps, more than it did the chief actor. I was driving out with an old friend who had devoted the leisure of a long life to Natural History; our goal, a fossiliferous cliff of high importance, which he had practically discovered for science, because he had been the means of fixing its most important horizon. Suddenly he said to me, “Well, they elected you, but they would not have me.” A confusion of thought, for the “theys” were different. He referred to my election by a club, and his rejection by the Royal Society. The remark was hard to meet, but my proffered consolation was, “You must either invent some new theory, or upset somebody else’s theory; it does not matter the least which, but you must do one or the other.” But the plague of it, that this kindly old naturalist should have put himself in competition with “the professors and their young pupils, or assistants”, and felt this shadow fall on the last years of his life. My own experience may be worth a note, too. Almost before I had done a stroke of solid work, an old F.R.S., with a quizzical expression, enquired one day if I had any ambition to be a Fellow of the Royal. Pausing a moment, I replied that the fellowship would not be of much use, but that I should certainly like to be up to R. S. standard. Long years after this, there happened a casual visit to the same old philosopher, and the unexpected enquiry, not quizzical this time, “Whether I had ever thought of becoming a candidate for the Royal Society?” No, I certainly had not – obloquy and contempt do not lead to that goal; it was all I could do to stem the opposition, without seeking to join the current. But the quarter the suggestion came from – it was quite sufficient. Had I been elected by the unanimous vote of the existing Council, with the approval of the ghosts of all previous ones, and my Nestor had doubted, the satisfaction would have been less.
The suggestion was promptly scouted as preposterous; but I, later on, went so far as to inquire the modus operandi. I was fairly taken aback. My idol was a shattered Dagon. The first prescription was to take a list of members, to note my friends, and enlist their services. What! write myself? Yes, nowadays, election entails hard work on the part of the candidate. Then far better stay out; and the only use made of the list was to analyse the composition of the Society as already mentioned. The result of this analysis, together with years of observation of the feuds and petty jealousies of scientists, resulted in the conviction that, however gratifying election may be to the amateur, and however valuable to the professional man whom it places at the top of his profession, amateurs would serve the cause of science far better by preserving their independence and criticising the professors, than by humbly going, cap in hand, to solicit their patronage; and, indeed, there is far too much of such obsequiousness in the characters from last places, submitted by suppliants for vacant situations at Burlington House. I have known of one man, one of the bright lights of the century, who, with the most patent humility, has not been able to conceal his gratification with the mystic F.R.S., and a little attention from some university. An electric light basking in the illumination of a gas jet; or, perhaps more accurately, a diamond rejoicing in its golden setting.
It is, however, very hard to realise that a man is no wiser for being made F.R.S. I am entirely unable to do so myself; yet it must be the case.
When a provincial naturalist follows up some definite line of study, he sooner or later finds himself brought up, to use an expressive nautical term, by some incidental collateral problem which his library and local friends are unable to surmount. The obvious course for him to pursue is to submit the point to some learned society, at whose hands he may either obtain the desired information, or, what may prove equally useful, ascertain that the point is undecided, and a question for further research. If, however, he attempts this, the probability is that his paper will be rejected, as being either immature, controversial, of the nature of preliminary notes, or as constituting only a single phase of a long discussion. Papers tainted with these characters have been pronounced by the highest authority undesirable for presentation to the Geological Society.* And yet, as every theory depends on a number of hypotheses, any one of which, if disproved will wreck it like a house of cards, the most elaborate theory may often be best tested by attacking these hypotheses in detail. Take, for instance, the immense problem of the Dartmoor granite, upon which volumes might with advantage be written. The chief question to be answered is this. Is the granite older or newer than the culm slates adjoining. Yes, or no? Now, this question might be conceivably be answered in a variety of ways. It might be proved that the Dartmoor rock presented features peculiar to post-Carboniferous granites; or that the granite altered the culm rocks at contact; or that it injected them; or that it caught up fragments of these rocks; or that it overflowed them. A long treatise might be written in support of many of these propositions, and no doubt every fact should be given its due weight in an exhaustive treatise on Dartmoor. But the whole theory would be effectually shaken by a single fact proving that the granite was older than the culm rocks: e.g., Dartmoor granite in a culm conglomerate; or culm slate lying in situ on the granite, absolutely unaffected thereby. Now, our provincial might very well have the opportunity to collect the evidence without the technical skill to make the most of it. Obviously, his better course would be to state the case to the best of his ability, and submit it to a grand jury of experts, who would decide whether the evidence justified further enquiry.
* Proc Geol. Soc. 1886-7, p. 53.
Let me illustrate my meaning by one example. On the road, near Yarner Wells, north of Heytor, the culm in the immediate vicinity of the main mass of the typical porphyritic granite is apparently unaltered; elsewhere, when in contact with the finer grained rock, it is indurated. In a slice of fine culm sandstone, from Ramshorn Down, there are indications of chlorides in the detrital quartz-grains. These are clues which call for further investigation, and might of themselves lead to the utter rout of the exclusively post-Carboniferous theory: just as the induration by the fine intrusive granite demolishes any exclusive pre-Carboniferous theory. Then there are the culm conglomerates awaiting investigation, a museum of pre-Carboniferous rocks, an unworked mine of scientific wealth. But what inducement is there to dig therein? Nay, how much warning is there to desist from any such attempt? though, probably, not one geologist in a thousand knows where these culm conglomerates are.
In the course of prolonged work on different subjects, the student has often to leave interesting points by the wayside, in the hope that they may be returned to at some future time. Vain hope, for such points gather like snowballs as time runs on. In conclusion, I propose to mention a few such attractions reluctantly left behind on my own path.
For brevity, I state them in the form of an examination paper.
(1.) Felspar-quartz-tourmaline veins, often deposited in that order, are common on Dartmoor; the same secondary minerals often pervade the ordinary granite. How are they all related, to themselves and the parent rock?
(2.) Quartz-mica concretions occasionally assume the crystalline outlines of felspar, as though replacing that mineral. Of this there is no evidence, no intermediate links. May not these forms be analogous with the negative crystals of the fluid inclusions; determined by a felspathic solution, or magma?
(3.) What is the age of these quartz-mica concretions?
(4.) Quartz-tourmaline concretions are common in connection with invading granites, just as the quartz-mica concretions are common in the main masses; what determines these different accretions?
(5.) Does tourmaline ever, strictly speaking, replace either mica or felspar, in the sense that silica or pyrites replace the carbonates of a shell?
(6.) Compact, typical tourmaline, often breaks up into needles, rods, and allotriomorphic crystals. What are the processes, and how do they differ in each case?
(7.) Describe the fluid inclusions of all the chief granite exposures of Devon, Cornwall, and Brittany. Mention their points of resemblance and difference.
(8.) Describe the fluid inclusions in the secondary quartzes of certain Devonian diabasic rocks, e.g. those of Winslade. Distinguish them, if you can, from inclusions in plutonic quartzes.
(9.) State clearly the points of difference between the fluid inclusions of quartzes connected with granites, eruptive rocks, and sedimentary rocks; not including the detrital quartz of sandstones.
(10.) Assuming the purely post-Carboniferous age of the Dartmoor granites, how do you account for the fact that saline and fresh-water fluid inclusions lie side by side in well-nigh every cubic foot of the rock?
(11.) Assuming that the granite was pre-Carboniferous, explain the veins and intrusions which invade the culm slates.
(12.) The Dartmoor granite is divided roughly by three systems of joints, in addition to an apparent bedding, which commonly follows the contour of the ground. Explain all four; bearing in mind the luted joints seen in freshly-blasted specimens, and the tendency of the rock occasionally to split along definite planes.
(13.) Quartz veins in the carboniferous rocks near the granite often contain chloride inclusions. Discuss the relation of these quartz veins to the granitic quartzes, more especially with regard to their initial temperatures.
(14.) Compact characteristic brown tourmaline crystallises sometimes before quartz. Compact green tourmaline crystallises sometimes before and sometimes after quartz, the two inosculating. Discuss these points of difference.
(15.) Quartz-mica concretions often contain porphyritic crystals of felspar, sometimes with rounded outlines; are these invariably older than the concretions?
(16.) The felspar-quartz-tourmaline rocks of Dartmoor are often entirely free from mica: whereas the ordinary felspar-quartz-mica rock almost invariably contains tourmaline. Suggest a working hypothesis to cover these facts, explaining the origin of the two rocks.
(17.) Near Bovey Tracey the ordinary granite is divided from the culm slates by a large exposure of felsite, which invades the culm. At Bottor rock is the well-known diabase. Explain the origin and mutual relations of the three rocks.
(18.) South of Dartmoor, towards the metamorphic district, felsitic and basic exposures occur, lying between the Channel granites and the Dartmoor granites; to which are they more closely related?
(19.) At Erme Mouth crystalline rocks abound on the coast; to what extent do these resemble the Dartmoor rocks on the north, and the Channel rocks on the south?
(20.) Assuming the metamorphic rocks to be Archaean, account for their general resemblance as a series, of green rocks, mica-schists, and quartz schists (the latter with tourmalines), to the greenstones, slates, and sandstones (with tourmalines) of the Devonians.
(21.) Assuming the schists to be Devonian, explain the abruptness of the metamorphic boundary line.
(22.) To what, if any, extent is the absence of augite in the metamorphic green rocks due to pressure, taking into consideration the fact that the augite has completely disappeared in certain of the Devonian greenstones?
(23.) Trace the formation of the secondary albite in the metamorphic green rocks.
(24.) Discuss the presence of two crystalline erratics on the beach, near the Prawle. Describe them accurately, and give your reasons for believing them connected, or otherwise, with the blocks trawled in the Channel.
(25.) On the assumption that the Channel blocks are erratics, how do you explain the abundance of granitic gravel and sand on the floor of the English Channel?
(26.) On the assumption that the blocks are in situ, how do you explain the distinctness of the crystalline granitoid rocks from those of Devon and Cornwall?
(27.) Compare the Eddystone gneiss and veins with the schists and veins near Salcombe, with special regard to the microliths in the Eddystone felspar.
(28.) Compare the Lundy granite with the Dartmoor. Explain why the Lundy rock is invaded by basic rocks, whereas the Dartmoor rock is not so. Note the felspars and fluid inclusions of these two granites.
(29.) Chlorides are not uncommon in the quartz-sand of Start Bay. No chlorides have been recorded in any of the Channel blocks. Why is this so?
(30.) Compare the schorlaceous rocks of Dartmoor, the Teignmouth breccias, and the Budleigh Salterton pebble bed, and discuss the probability, or otherwise, of their being related. Note particularly any differences.
(31.) Describe the sand from the Skerries Shoal, in Start Bay. How do you distinguish remanié rolled grains, remanié unrolled grains, felspars and quartzes rounded in their parent rocks, and sands whose rounding is entirely the work of the waves?
(32.) Distinguish granite river sand from the above.
(33.) What are the special characters of beach sands, as compared with sands from deserts, shoals, and rivers?
(34.) The Torbay Raised Beaches are proved to be true beaches by their stratification, and their beach-platforms cut out of the rock. Their components are so angular and unwaterworn that some geologists have denied their beach character. Reconcile these apparently conflicting facts. Both are facts.
(35.) Certain spheroidal chert pebbles, common on the Chesil Bank, have been found on the raised beach between Brixham and Berry Head. Cardium edule, a brackish water cockle, is abundant on the Thatcher Beach. Restore the coast-line between Berry Head and Portland, in the Raised Beach era, to make these occurrences possible.
(36.) A bluish schorlaceous crystalline rock, apparently peculiar to the Teignmouth conglomerates, has been discovered at the Berry Head Beach. Discuss the presence of this stone in connection with the chert and cockles referred to above.
(37.) Between Trochus zizyphinus and Trochus granulatus there seems every connecting link, both as to the granulated sculpture and the profile. Is one the littoral, and the other the coralline zone representative of a common ancestor, and which is the older form of the two? The radulae of intermediate forms should be examined.
(38.) Flat-fish, lying on sand, are protected by form and colour. Against what enemies does each of these protect?
(39.) Assuming the giant sea-hares of Torbay to be the ordinary Aplysia punctata, how do you account for their unprecedented size; their extreme rarity; and the abnormal form of the shells? Assuming them to be a distinct species, A. depilans, how do you account for their regular sequence from molluscs indistinguishable from A. punctata, both as to size and radulae; also for the fact that A. depilans and A. punctata have been taken by Mr. Gwyn-Jeffreys, breeding together?
(40.) Stalagmite accumulates in three distinct ways – by evaporation of the water in the air; by discharge of carbonic acid in a saturated atmosphere; and in a third manner not explained. The stalagmite of the Borness Cave and the granular stalagmite of Kent’s Cavern are examples of the first two processes. Give your reasons for believing that the crystalline stalagmite of Kent’s Cavern represents Arctic conditions, in which the surface was either frozen hard, with no circulation of water, or that, when not frozen, the temperature of the cave was invariably colder than the outer air; whereas, at present, the temperature is the mean temperature of the district. Discuss this question in connection with the nodule and flake-tool men, with the glacial epoch, and with the antiquity of man in general.
The foregoing forty thieves – for they have stolen a deal of time – are all that occur to me currente calamo. They are all questions which involve principle; rungs of the ladder which, if firmly surmounted, would place the climber definitely one step higher, with a clearer view and more extended horizon. It is doubtful whether, in the near future, amateurs would be allowed to attack them without the passive boycott or personal insult from those in high places. And yet these questions ought to be grappled with. Who will make the attempt? Any one who floors the paper would deserve a D.SC. and an F.R.S., though he would not get them. However, he would ensure many steps in advance, which would be far better.
It is very important for the student to remember that the fret object of all the publishing scientific societies is to avoid plagiarism. Truth is quite a secondary consideration. It is a necessary inexorable rule that no alteration should be made in a paper after reception. This would not, however, be necessary could scientists be trusted not to pick each other’s brains without acknowledgment. The procedure is commonly as follows: A scientist propounds an untenable theory, which is more or less torn to rags in the subsequent discussion. The theory, however, is published without amendment, to the discomfiture of the unwary student. Often, if the discussion could be published, and the paper omitted, science would be the better gainer. The publications of the Institution of Civil Engineers are often of extraordinary value, as the discussions are printed at considerable length. Before reading a paper in the Journal of the Geological Society, it is advisable to read the brief comments of those who have heard the paper. The student will usually perceive that the paper is but an essay expounding the views of the writer, from which scientists of equal or greater eminence entirely dissent. In the case of original research the precept must be taken literally – “Believe nothing that you hear, and only half that you see.” Nothing must be taken for granted, every step must be retraced, and every assertion verified. No opportunity must be missed of exposing doubtful points to criticism. In the case of the Channel blocks (it is begging the question to call them boulders), an early paper was read to the Torquay Natural History Society, before Mr. Pengelly and Dr. Sorby; six times was the question submitted to the Devon Association, twice to the British Association, and once introduced to the readers of the Geological Magazine, The upshot of the whole being that on this question, doctrine seems still far from crystallisation into dogma.
In conclusion, I may mention an incident which made a great impression on myself. Feeling the great responsibility of the search for truth, even in comparatively trivial quests, I was startled to realise myself under the stimulus of ambition. I prayed God to deliver me from such temptation. That was in 1882, when all my work was going with a swing. At once the tide turned, and official obstruction set in; but, strange to say, private assistance and encouragement was multiplied. If any evidence was wanted, that precise evidence came to hand. What could be more unlikely than that a sailor, unsolicited, should send me an old bottle, confirming all my wave-work; and that Sir George Stokes should offer to calculate the wave action which would produce the phenomena it displayed? How remarkable, again, that Mr. Tawney’s executors should give me his microscope; that Mr. Teall should offer to show me the characteristics of tourmaline; that Mr. Somervail should give me the only collected specimen of the Start schist containing tourmaline; that I should cut two slices of that rock; and that it should occur to me, one night, to search the duplicate slice for tourmaline the next day; and that the slice should contain but a single identifiable fragment, the first slice containing not one! Surely, this is a strange experience for a student who had no interest in the Archaean controversy, and would never have purchased a petrological microscope? The search for truth is indeed no light matter, not one to be sullied and degraded by personal ambition. I should be inclined to counsel any young student who believes in the God of truth, to write no line which he cannot lay upon the altar on his bended knees; and if he believes in no such God, is it worth while writing at all? The memory of the greatest fades like a flower; “Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.”
“THE ROUNDING OF SAND-GRAINS BY WAVES.”
“Southwood, Torquay, 10th April, 1887.
“Gentlemen, – I have been collecting materials for a short paper on the rolling and rounding of sea-sand on shoals, and intend to publish it in the Trans. Devon Assoc.* But as it is intimately connected with a paper by the late Mr. Phillips in the Q.J.G.S., I would give the Geological Society the refusal of it, provided, if accepted, the paper may be illustrated by at least two micro-photographs of sands. I understand from Messrs. Waterlow that the cost would be about 10s. for each plate.
“I may observe that I have no intention to criticise Mr. Phillips’ paper, but only to deal with a cause of the rounding of sand-grains which had not, apparently, been brought before him.
“Arthur R. Hunt, F.G.S.
“The Secretaries, Geological Society of London.”
* This paper was never even read to a meeting, but entirely recast for the Devon Association.
To my surprise, this very formal communication never got farther than the Assistant-Secretary and President, as the following letter will show:
“4th May, 1887.
“Dear Sir, – I have been away from home for some three weeks, so the subject of my proposed paper has been in abeyance with me. I am much obliged to you, and to the President, for considering favourably the acceptance of my paper, but that, of course, must be judged on its merits when received. I have no wish to press the paper on the Society – far from it – but I only desire that, should the illustrations not be granted, the paper may be also returned, as I rely greatly on the fac-simile reproduction by photography of my sand photographs. I will let you have both paper and photo, as soon as possible.
“yours very truly,
“A. R HUNT.
“W. S. Dallas, Esq.”
The position was now a singular one. Instead of submitting any paper to the Council of the Geological Society, as anticipated, it was clear that a special research, in which I had been assisted by Rayleigh, Stokes, and Sorby, was to be judged by Messrs. Dallas and Judd, men for whom I entertained the deepest respect, but who had never, so far as I was aware, studied my special subject. It was about time to prepare for a reverse.
“9th May, 1887.
“Dear Sir, – I enclose my paper on the rounding of sands by waves, for the consideration of the President. I am very doubtful myself whether it is a paper exactly suited to the Geological Society, and if you and the President share my doubts, I would suggest your returning it without taking any formal action. It will then be published, in all probability, by the Devonshire Association, as a Devonshire paper.
“A. R. HUNT.
“W. S. Dallas, Esq.”
The receipt of paper was acknowledged, but fearing it had been pigeon-holed, I wrote:
“Southwood, Torquay, 16th May, 1887.
“Dear Sir, – Not having heard from you since yours of 11th, acknowledging receipt of paper, I just write to say that up to Friday next my address will be Foxworthy, Moretonhampstead; after that date I hope to be here again.
“A. R Hunt.
“W. S. Dallas, Esq.”
In reply to the above, Mr. Dallas wrote me a very civil letter to the effect that the President considered the paper “scarcely suitable” for the Geological Society, and that he ventured to think so too.
The whole correspondence was amusing. There was not a single Fellow of the Geological Society whose opinion of the paper I desired, but the point was how to avoid too open a rebuff. Had I sent up Sir G. G. Stokes’ letter as an appendix, that would, probably, have ensured acceptance. But that was reserved as a bonne bouche for whatever Society welcomed the subject. The doubt whether the paper was “exactly suited” for the Geological Society was, I regret to say, “wrote sarcastic”, with the Kent’s Cavern experience in mind; my feeling being that, if not “exactly suited”, it ought to be.
The question lay in a nutshell. The then President of Section C., Brit. Assoc, had proclaimed that rounded sand-grains were good evidence of aeolian action. My paper went to prove that this far-reaching conclusion was unsound. It would be hard to imagine a more important and suitable subject for the Geological Society to consider and discuss.