Buckland, William

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Buckland, William

(b. Axminster, England, 12 March 1784; d. Islip, England, 14 August 1856)

geology, paleontology.

Buckland’s father, Charles, was rector of Templeton and Trusham; his mother, Elizabeth, was the daughter of a landed proprietor established in Devon since the seventeenth century. Buckland became interested in rocks and fossil shells by playing among them in the valley of the River Axe, in local quarries, and at the seashore around Lyme Regis. He went on collecting rambles with his father, who had a taste for ammonites and related shells. He also collected birds’ eggs and observed the habits of fishes. At Winchester School, Buckland was a good Latin student and became familiar with chalk formations through the common practice of digging for field mice in nearby chalk pits. Environment, family, church, and school experiences had fixed his interest on natural history by the time he entered Oxford.

Buckland won a competitive examination for a scholarship at Corpus Christi College in 1801. He graduated in 1804 with a very good examination and continued in residence, supporting himself on his scholarship and by taking pupils. He was elected fellow of his college and admitted to holy orders in 1809.

Around this period some people at Oxford, partly stimulated by John Kidd’s lectures, were showing an interest in geology. Among the members of this group, besides Buckland, were J. J. and W. D. Conybeare, Charles Daubeny, John and Philip Duncan, and W. J. Broderip. The latter introduced Buckland to fieldwork, and Buckland considered the younger man to be his tutor in geology. Broderip was knowledgeable in conchology; he had been instructed by Joseph Townsend, a friend of William Smith. Buckland was thus initiated into the new fossil geology at the beginning of his career. Broderip remained a close friend and scientific adviser; and Buckland sought out Townsend and Benjamin Richardson, another friend of Smith’s on his trips from Oxford to Axminster. Other early geological friends were Henry De la Beche, who grew up at Lyme Regis, and George Greenough.

In 1813 Buckland was elected reader in mineralogy to succeed Kidd, and became a fellow of the Geological Society of London; his first publication, of sorts, was in 1814. His lectures included geology, and were well received. He was appointed to a new readership (not professorship) in geology in 1818; the motives and politics of this endowment have not been satisfactorily explained. Thereafter Buckland usually styled himself “professor” on matter published in London and “reader” on mater published in Oxford. He gave two sets of lectures yearly until 1849, and usually prepared new lecture notes each year. Apparently he emphasized causal explanations of the visible phenomena. Buckland was an active participant in town affairs; among other matters, he was instrumental in introducing gas lighting in 1818, and became chairman of the Oxford gas company.

From 1808 to 1815 Buckland made geological tours of England and other parts of the British Isles. In 1816, with Greenough and W. D. Conybeare, he began his European tours, which eventually took him to Germany, Poland, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, and France. Cuvier visited him at Oxford in 1818, and he visited Cuvier at Paris several times.

Buckland was awarded the Copley Medal of the Royal Society for his cavern researches published in 1822. He was president of the Geological Society of London in 1824–1825 and again in 1840–1841, and was a member of the Council of the Royal Society from 1827 to 1849. In 1825 he accepted a country parsonage in the gift of his college, presumably so that he could marry, but was then appointed a canon of Christ Church, Oxford. These canonries were among the richest governmental rewards for academic distinction without serious administrative responsibilities. Buckland married Mary Morland, of Sheepstead House, near Abingdon, Berkshire, the same year; they had five children who survived. Mary Buckland assisted her husband with his writing, and by drawing illustrations and reconstructing fossils according to his instructions.

Buckland’s Continental trips, especially those of 1826 and 1827, made him aware of German attempts to found an annual meeting of scientific men. His public prominence and international contacts made him an obvious choice for president and host of the second meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1832 (the first full scientific meeting, since the one in 1831 was largely devoted to organizing the association). He was thereafter active at its meetings. He played a major role in the establishment of the Museum of Practical Geology and affiliated activities of his friend De la Beche.

Buckland was made dean of Westminster in 1845 by the Tory prime minister, Robert Peel, an admirer of his work. He left Oxford for London rather willingly, feeling that he had tried for forty-four years to spread a taste for science at the university, and had failed. We can see that he had raised geology to rank alongside the more prominent sciences, such as anatomy, and had helped foster the growing interest in science that led to its inclusion in the examination curriculum and to the building of the Oxford Museum, in the next decade. His own scientific work, while perhaps ultimately not so significant as that being done in physics at Cambridge, and not leading to an “Oxford school of geology”, did give Oxford an international name in science that it did not have in humanistic or biblical scholarship.

As dean of Westminster, Buckland was a vigorous administrator, repairing the physical deterioration of the abbey and the school, and restoring the school scholastically to the status of an effective modern educational institution. He took an interest in local sanitary reform. Basically a liberal in Anglican Church politics, he took particular pleasure in acting as host for the consecration of four missionary bishops, a move opposed by some factions.

Buckland held the rectory of Islip, seven miles from Oxford, as a country home. He was a useful rector, and retired there when, at the end of 1849, he contracted a mysterious illness characterized by apathy and depression. He died seven years later. The autopsy showed that damage to the base of the skull caused by a carriage accident in Germany thirty years before had developed into an advanced state of decay. His wife died a year later, apparently as a result of the same accident. Both were buried in Islip church-yard.

Personally, Buckland was characterized by great energy. His whole life and his household were organized around geology. His unfailing sense of humor puzzled and annoyed some of his more Victorian-minded colleagues, such as Charles Lyell and Adam Sedgwick, and led John Henry Newman to distrust geology altogether. On the other hand, John Ruskin found him stimulating, as did most of his other auditors. Buckland took religion and geology seriously, but took himself, other geologists, and most geological theories much less so.

Buckland was not given to synthesis or system building, and there is a danger of attributing too much importance to his general theoretical positions, which were often derivative. His importance lay, rather, in helping to redefine the nature and method of a geological explanation. British stratigraphers before about 1815 had often been satisfied with a tracing of the strata (largely the secondary formations) or had gone all the way to a total system of geological dynamics. Following the suggestion of Cuvier in the first edition of his Discours préliminaire, Buckland and other geologists wished to produce detailed explanations that would in effect constitute a geological history, period by period, of the events in a given locality. To help in doing so, Buckland transferred Cuvier’s method of reconstructing fossil animals to geology proper: that is, he tried to reason from the analogies of the existing world (Cuvier’s création actuelle) to the events of a past world, even though Cuvier himself had cast some doubt on the validity of this process in geology.

Nothing is more characteristic of Buckland’s papers than the use of some immediately observable contemporary analogy—the habits of modern hyenas, the cavities formed by air bubbles in clay, the geographical locus of modern animals. His method also differed from that of Cuvier’s Discours in not depending primarily on paleontological evidence. Although Buckland was one of Cuvier’s great admirers and seemingly enjoyed correcting him on all kinds of specific points, his own method was to bring together stratigraphical, petrological, dynamic, and paleontological reasoning and observations on modern forms and habits of life to explain the phenomena of a given locality. This is well exemplified by his paper of 1830, written with De la Beche, on the geology of the neighborhood of Weymouth, which utilizes the techniques he had developed over the previous fifteen years.1

In paleontology Buckland’s most interesting work was on still-existing forms, such as hyenas and bears, and on marine shells. Cuvier was not much interested in conchology, the study of variations among shells per se; Buckland’s emphasis, while including the organisms that produced the shells, was perhaps a bit more in the conchological tradition of William Smith and James Sowerby.

Buckland was thus one of the men, perhaps the ablest and probably the most acute, who built a typically “British” geology, based on careful local stratigraphy and local dynamic explanations but revivified by the addition of fossil evidence. This British geology was recognizable as such for the next half-century, regardless of the ideological conceptions (uniformitarian or catastrophist, for example) of the geologist involved. Cuvier was delighted by the results and, in later editions of the Discours, cited Buckland as one of the men who had brought into being the new geology whose possibility was only indicated in the Discours itself.

On more particular points of theory, the actual sources of Buckland’s positions cannot be documented without a study of private papers, although his relation to some positions of his predecessors can be indicated. The processes postulated by James Hutton for cyclic continent building were dismissed by many geologists as being unobservable and therefore of little scientific importance. Buckland ignored such hypothetical views in classifying theorists. He used “Huttonian” to designate those who explained the earth’s surface features by the slow action of atmospheric agents. He opposed such geologists; he believed many surface features had originated in local elevations and dislocations. Like many British geologists, he agreed with Saussure, who had used the idea of a massive “debacle” of water to explain much valley excavation, distribution of alluvial gravel, and erratic transport. Unlike Kidd, but like Townsend, Buckland felt that geology could present positive evidence of this debacle. Like Townsend, he was inclined toward volcanism, although it played no essential role in his own work, and he was effective in spreading a tasted for the study of volcanic action among British scientists in the 1820’s. Basically anti-Wernerian, he nevertheless looked for a worldwide identification of equivalent strata. In opposition to Cuvier’s suggestion, Buckland believed that the current continents are more or less permanent, and were dry land before the most recent catastrophe or debacle; their period of submersion under the ocean had been long before that. Like other geologists who had studied the false alarms of the eighteenth century, he was skeptical of evidence of fossil human bones in strata earlier than the debacle; he examined new cases carefully but concluded each time that the point was not proved.

If no other indication is given, the dates in the text of this essay indicate when the paper in question was read, not when it was published. Buckland’s first important paper was read in 1816, when he was thirty-two years old. He modified his own theorizing concerning the cause of the deluge to take into account Louis Agassiz’s glacial hypothesis in 1840, when he was fifty-six. A slow starter, he was alert throughout his career to adopt or react to new proposals.

The paper of 1816, on specimens from the plastic clay, shows a number of Buckland’s continuing themes.2 He was studying the British equivalent of the argile plastique of Cuvier and Alexandre Brongniart, located above the chalk and below the London clay. They had suggested, on the basis of the differences in organic remains, that each deposition was of immense scale and that a long time had intervened between the formations. Buckland confirmed the identity of the French and English formations on the basis of petrographical considerations, and the long periods involved on the basis of the processes that could have produced the rocks and fossils of the strata. The chalk must first have been consolidated; its breaking up produced chalk pebbles whose smoothness and roundness argued the long-continued action of water. These pebbles were mixed in with the clay before or during its solidification, and there were periods of repose long enough for myriad oysters whose shells were attached to the pebbles to live and die undisturbed. Thus Buckland added comparative geology, local dynamics, and stratigraphical and petrological considerations to the French fossil approach, in order to show the long periods involved and the great time gaps in this part of the geological record.

In 1819 Buckland delivered his inaugural lecture as reader in geology; it was published as Vindiciae geologicae in 1820. Ostensibly it was an orthodox presentation of geology as useful to religion, in response to an evangelical Presbyterian, the famous Scots preacher Thomas Chalmers, who objected not to geology but to any kind of natural theology. Geology extends the reign of final causes, said Buckland; it shows the existence of a recent universal deluge and the recent origin of man; geological epochs came (as Chalmers suggested) before the creation story, so there is no need to reconcile them with the biblical days of creation. Actually, the lecture was a careful definition of an independent position. Buckland corrected Cuvier as to the permanence of modern continents. He surrounded quotations from Deluc with a text that contradicted Deluc on the essential point: Buckland insisted that the world was made for all its inhabitants, not for man alone. He contradicted Kidd, now his faculty colleague, who believed that the Mosaic flood had taken place miraculously but had left no geological traces; Buckland maintained the reverse. His real antagonist, however, was an evangelical within the Anglican Church, John Bird Sumner, who was later archbishop of Canterbury. By careful selection Buckland made it appear that Sumner’s position supported his own; but Buckland carefully avoided asserting a physical miracle, his “creative interference” being always a final, not an efficient, cause. Buckland’s insistence on the actual evidence of a deluge was partly an answer to Sumner’s insistence that the Mosaic records were much more reliable than geological evidence. The notion that with Buckland “Cuvier and orthodoxy were triumphant”3 is an old one, but incorrect. For years one of Buckland’s roles was to keep room clear for an independent evaluation of scientific evidence within the Anglican community, in spite of increasing pressures from Evangelicalism and, later, from Tractarianism.

Buckland’s major work on the geological evidence for a recent deluge was his paper on the quartz pebbles of Lickey Hill in Worcestershire, read later in 1819.4 By tracing the distribution of these pebbles as far east as London, he thought to trace the path of the deluge and to show that some valleys were scooped out by its waters. This paper, with its conclusion that such superficial gravel appears in similar circumstances all over the world, represents the high point of Buckland’s belief in universal formations and universal events; and it is presented in unusually dogmatic form as compared to Buckland’s more usual qualified assertions. In the next year came his first published dealings with non-European rocks, in a brief paper on resemblances between specimens from Madagascar and New South Wales, and English rocks; here he was more moderate.5 In his major paper on the structure of the Alps in 1821, Buckland showed that formations on the flanks of the mountains were the equivalent of certain secondary formations in England, and that there is a regular order of succession in Alpine districts identical with that of England.6 The table of equivalents annexed to the paper is quite useful. This paper was perhaps the most important work on the Alps between J.G. Ebel’s treatise of 1808 and the work of Sedgwick and Murchison around 1830.

Buckland continued his dynamic and stratigraphic researches, and his important summary was “On the Formation of the Valley of Kingsclere”, read in 1825.7 As opposed to simple Huttonian erosion, he believed in the multicausal origin of valleys, in which elevation, fracture, diluvial currents, and erosion had all played their parts. And he noted that the Savoy Alps had been elevated from the ocean floor since the deposition of the Tertiary strata.

In 1822 Buckland published his study of the fossil bones found in Kirkdale Cave in Yorkshire, and in 1823 expanded it into a full-scale treatise, Reliquiae diluvianae.8 The dedication to Bishop Shute Barrington, Sumner’s patron in the church, pointedly hoped it would no longer be asserted that there is no geological evidence for a universal deluge but reminded the bishop that the deluge’s physical cause was still unknown.

The deluge, however, was not the important novelty of the Reliquiae. Buckland considered the work his “hyena story”,9 for he proposed that the cave had been the den of hyenas; he not only found fossil feces (“coprolites”) and tooth-marked bones, but also made observations on the habits of modern hyenas. His important conclusion was that species of animals that now exist together only in the tropics had coexisted in northern Europe with species still in existence, and that this demonstrated a tropical climate in antediluvial times, before the deluge buried the bones in a layer of mud. Further, the bones and caves showed that Europe had then been dry land much as it is now. In another cave Buckland found a human skeleton which, since the cave showed signs of human disturbance in historic time, he took to be postdiluvial.

The Reliquiae was well received for its scientific content, although some critics felt that Buckland had pushed the use of analogies from “modern causes” too far. Cuvier was very pleased with it, although he did not fully concede the general validity of Buckland’s reasoning concerning climate. Buckland’s assertion of the reality of the Mosaic flood as shown by paleontological evidence, although praised by his friend Edward Copleston in the Quarterly Review, was widely attacked by other critics and even by James Smithson, who, somewhat confused, was under the impression that he was defending Buckland from an attack by Granville Penn.10 Buckland’s Oxford students found the idea more amusing than convincing. Apparently it needed only to be stated clearly and fully in order to seem unconvincing; in the popular Conversations on Geology of 1828 the in structress says that Penn’s theory was “no less fanciful than Mr. Buckland’s”.11 Buckland’s geological evidence for a large-scale force or agent acting in geologically recent times remained intact, but he quietly abandoned its identification with the Mosaic flood. For several years he intended a second volume of the Reliquiae but never published it because he could propose no convincing physical cause of the debacle.

Buckland took part in the giant saurian hunt of the 1820’s, perhaps more as a follower than as a leader, although he deserves much of the credit for the Megalosaurus. He sometimes acted as geological intermediary between the discoverer in the field (who was often a layman) and such expert anatomists as Clift and Broderip. His own striking contribution was his paper (1829) on the coprolites of Ichthyosauri.12 These coprolites permitted the reconstruction of a soft internal organ of an extinct species and indicated the species’ eating habits; they proved that carnivorous “warfare” had always been a law of nature “to maintain the balance of creation”. Further, their preservation in vast amounts furnished a “geological chronometer” of a period of undisturbed accumulation at the bottom of a sea. Coprolites should therefore be looked for in all periods when vertebrates had existed.

Toward the end of 1828 Charles Lyell and Roderick Murchison mounted an attack on Buckland’s valley-formation ideas. W.D. Conybeare labeled the debate one between “fluvialists” (Lyell and Murchison) and “diluvialists” (Conybeare and Buckland). Since the fluvialists could only show that the particular valleys they discussed were caused by erosion, and since Buckland himself had shown that some valleys were so caused, the debate was inconclusive; and Lyell agreed to Buckland’s general position in his Principles of Geology.13 The debate seems, however, to have stimulated Adam Sedgwick and William Hopkins to extend Buckland’s notions of elevation and dislocation as agents of surface formation in the 1830’s and 1840’s.

In 1830 Buckland was nominated to write the geological work in a series of books on natural theology that stemmed from the will of the eccentric eighth earl of Bridgewater; the final contracts were signed in 1832. We may assume that most of his energies until 1836 were directed to this project. Thus his celebrated explanations of the habits of the fossil Megatherium and the present-day sloth were devoted to showing how perfect their organization is for their mode of life,14 and the same examples reappear in the Bridgewater treatise.

Buckland was in the middle of a general conservative revolt at Oxford, led by the Tractarians, and his treatise was completed during the spring of 1836, when their fierce opposition to the appointment of the mildly liberal R. D. Hampden as professor of divinity drove a wedge of bitterness into the Anglican Church. Buckland’s natural theology conceded nothing to the new religious challenge. His position was essentially the same as in 1819, but its theological liberalism was by now more obvious, and was presented at length and without subterfuge. Buckland particularly emphasized William Paley’s position that the world was not made for man alone but for the pleasure of all species of life; in relation to the object to be attained, all organic mechanisms are equally good, are evidence of beneficent adaptation. He reasserted that it is futile to try to reconcile geological epochs with the days of creation in Genesis, and now openly renounced the identification of his geological deluge with the Mosaic flood. He went no further toward admitting miracles as physical causes than he had done in 1819. The final cause of successive organic systems, he said, is the purpose of maintaining the greatest possible amount of life on earth at all times. He was insistent that the past was regulated by the same laws and processes as the present, and showed the same kind of ecological balance. This demonstrated the unity of the Deity (whereas the Tractarians were fond of saying that natural theology tended to polytheism).

As a geological system Buckland chose, possibly borrowing from De la Beche and Conybeare, progressive development from an initially hot earth, with discontinuous assemblages of organic life being created and dying out. To express a secular development while simultaneously rejecting continuous progress and transmutation, he deliberately kept the rhetoric of the Great Chain of Being, but with missing links or gaps in the present creation being filled up by fossil organisms from past time periods. This was a noteworthy change from Cuvier, and a major step in the conversion of a balanced Malthusian ecology into a system maintaining its balance while it changed over time. Although not agreeing with Charles Lyell’s uniformitarianism, Buckland cited the Principles of Geology with respect. The treatise was the major general view of paleontology produced in Britain in the period; Buckland’s own new contributions were on mollusks, especially the mechanical contrivances (for example, syphons) used in chambered shells.

His Bridgewater treatise was Buckland’s last sustained independent scientific work. He became increasingly interested in Roman archaeology and in the practical applications of geology, particularly the drainage of farms and the use of manures. He spread knowledge of Liebig’s work but also advocated the widespread use of the natural phosphates contained in the large beds of coprolites he had identified.

In the period from 1838 to 1840 Buckland at last found a physical cause for a geologically recent catastrophe. Louis Agassiz convinced him that much of his evidence constituted signs of widespread glaciation. He and Agassiz delivered papers to the Geological Society of London in November 1840 on glaciation in Britain, and Buckland gave two more in 1840 and 1841.15 He did not agree completely with Agassiz, however. He thus had the opportunity, of which he took full advantage in his presidential address to the Geological Society in 1841,16 to accuse both the “glacialists” (Agassiz) and the “diluvialists” (by whom he meant especially Roderick Murchison) of “extreme opinions”. He himself compromised by asserting the influence both of glaciers and of the torrents of water released as the glaciers melted, and of the icebergs drifted along in waters. An explanation for Saussure’s debacle had been found at last.


1. “On the geology of the neighbourhood of Weymouth and the adjacent parts of the coast of Devon”, in Transactions of the Geological Society of London, 2nd ser., 4 (1836), 1–46.

2. “Description of a series of specimens from the plastic clay near Reading, Berks”, ibid., 4 (1817), 277–304.

3. Robert Knox, The Races of Men (London, 1850), p. 170.

4. “Description of the quartz rock of the Lickey Hill in Worcestershire, and of the strata immediately surrounding it; with considerations on the evidence of a recent deluge, afforded by the gravel beds of Warwickshire and Oxfordshire, and the valley of the Thames from Oxford downwards to London; and an Appendix, containing analogous proofs of diluvian action. Collected from various authorities”, in Transactions of the Geological Society of London, 5 (1821), 506–544.

5. “Notice on the geological structure of a part of the island of Madagascar, founded on a collection transmitted to the Right Honourable the Earl Bathurst, by Governor Farquhar, in the year 1819; with observations on some specimens from the interior of New South Wales”, ibid., 476–481.

6. “Notice of a paper laid before the Geological Society on the Structure of the Alps and adjoining parts of the continent, and their relation to the secondary and transition rocks of England”, in Annals of Philosophy, n.s. 1 (Jan.–June 1821), 450–468.

7. “On the formation of the valley of Kingsclere and other valleys by the elevation of the strata that enclose them; and on the evidence of the original continuity of the basins of London and Hampshire”, in Transactions of the Geological Society of London, 2nd ser., 2 (1829), 119–130.

8. “Account of an assemblage of fossil teeth and bones of elephant, rhinoceros, hippopotamus, bear, tiger, and hyaena, and sixteen other animals discovered in a cave at Kirkdale, Yorkshire, in the year 1821: with a comparative view of five similar caverns in various parts of England, and others on the continent”, in Philosophical Transactions, 112 (1822), 171–235; Reliquiae diluvianae (London, 1823). The article constitutes the first section of the book. The first edition of the book sold out and there was a second edition in 1824.

9. North, “Paviland Cave”, p. 103.

10. [Edward Copleston], “Buckland-Reliquiae Diluvianae”, in Quarterly Review, 23 (1823), 138–165; James Smithson, “Some observations on Mr. Penn’s theory concerning the formation of the Kirkdale cave”, in Annals of Philosophy, n.s. 8 (July–Dec. 1824), 50–60.

11. (London, 1828), p. 341.

12. “On the discovery of coprolites, or fossil faeces, in the lias at Lyme Regis, and in other formations”, in Transactions of the Geological Society of London, 2nd ser., 3 (1835), 223–236.

13. (London, 1830), 1 , 171–172.

14. “On the adaptation of the structure of the sloths to their peculiar mode of life”, in Transactions of the Linnean Society, 17 (1837), 17–28.

15. “Memoir on the evidences of glaciers in Scotland and the north of England”, in Proceedings of the Geological Society of London, 3 (1838–1842), 332–337; “Second part of memoir on the evidence of glaciers in Scotland and the north of England”, ibid., 345–348; “On the glacio-diluvial phenomena in Snowdonia and the adjacent part of north Wales”, ibid., 579–584.

16. “Presidential Address for 1841”, ibid., 509–516.


I. Original Works. The list of articles in the Royal Society’s Catalogue of Scientific Papers (I, 702–705) is handy but incomplete, and the serious student will want to use the list of publications given by Francis Buckland in his “Memoir of the Author”, printed in the 1858 ed. of Buckland’s Bridgewater treatise, Geology and Mineralogy Considered With Reference to Natural Theology. This is in infuriating disarray but is tolerably complete; it lists most but not all abstracts in the British Association’s Reports, three separately printed sermons, and the forty-odd brief abstracts in the Proceedings of the Ashmolean Society of Oxford (most of which are of little importance). The following corrections may be noted (numbers are those of Francis Buckland’s list); No. 3: 1823; 2nd ed., 1824. No. 14: n.s. 10 (1825); same as no. 55. No. 19: unlocated, but probably same as no. 68. No. 24: published at the end of William Phillips, A Selection of Facts From the Best Authors, Arranged so as to Form an Outline of the Geology of England and Wales (London, 1818), No. 56: same as no. 70. No. 58: same as no. 1. No. 69: II (1814)–this is not listed by any author’s name but is “compiled by the Secretaries”. No. 29 in the Ashmolean Society list is not in its Proceedings but is no. 45 in the main list. To this list may be added “Notice of a Series of Specimens From Mr. Johnson’s Granite Quarries”, in Reports of the British Association, 11 (1841), trans. sect., 64; “Notice of Performations in Limestone”, ibid., 12 (1842), trans. sect., 57; and “On the Cause of the General Presence of Phosphorus in Strata”, ibid., 19 (1849), trans. sect., 67.

Francis Buckland refers to a paper entitled “On the Coasts of the North of Ireland”. This appears to be W.D. Conybeare, “Descriptive Notes Referring to the Outline of Sections Presented by a Part of the Coasts of Antrim and Derry…. From the Joint Observations of the Rev. W. Buckland”, in Transactions of the Geological Society of London, 3 (1816), 196–216. It is not Buckland’s “first important paper”.

There seem to be no major collections of Buckland’s papers. The most interesting group may be that at the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff. There are some papers, especially letters to Buckland, in the Devon County Record Office, Exeter. Christ Church has 21 letters and some material on Buckland’s career as canon. The Universtiy Museum. Oxford, has Ms material; relating to his lecture notes and publication drafts. The Bodleian Library has 46 scattered letters, and there are about 35 in the Whewell papers, Trinity College, Cambridge. There are probably others elsewhere.

II. Secondary Literature. The biographical material presented by his children—Francis Buckland’s “Memoir”, cited above, and Anna B. Gordon, The Life and Correspondence of William Buckland (New York, 1894)—is indispensable but incomplete and sometimes vague. Two articles by F.J. North are based on unpublished materials: “Paviland Cave, the ‘Red Lady’, the Deluge, and William Buckland,” in Annals of Science, 5 (1942), 91–128; and “Centenary of the Glacial Theory”, in Proceedings of theGeologists’ Association, 54 (1943), 1–28. Otherwise there has been no serious treatment of Buckland’s work, nor does any general work place it adequately in the history of geology. Attempts, both inadequate, to place Buckland’s theological position in its contemporary intellectual setting are Reijier Hooykaas, Natural Law and Divine Miracle (London, 1959), pp. 147, 190–201; and W. F. Cannon, “Problem of Miracles in the 1830’s”, in Victorian Studies, 4 (1960), 5–32. The latter incorrectly attributes to Buckland a statement of belief in physical miracles.

Walter F. Cannon

Buckland, William

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Buckland, William (1784–1856) The first reader in Geology and Mineralogy at the University of Oxford, Buckland was appointed Dean of Westminster in 1846. He developed the English school of historical geology with its emphasis on the progressive (but not evolutionary) nature of Earth history. Initially, he was a diluvialist and his Reliquiae Diluvianae (1823) is based on studies of fossil deposits in Kirkdale Cavern and other caves. He subsequently abandoned diluvialism in favour of Agassiz's glacial theory which he was the first to introduce into British geology. Buckland's Bridgewater Treatise (1836) was not only an attempt to reconcile geology and natural theology but also an up-to-date manual of historical geology. See also CATASTROPHISM.

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