Jukes, Joseph Beete

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Jukes, Joseph Beete

(b. Summerhill, near Birmingham, England, 10 October 1811; d. Dublin, Ireland, 29 July 1869)

geology, geomorphology.

The only son of John Jukes, a Birmingham manufacturer, Beete Jukes studied geology at Cambridge under Sedgwick, graduating in 1836. For several years he traveled about central and northern England, studying geology and giving lectures on the subject. In 1839 he accepted the post of geological surveyor in the colony of Newfoundland. He spent a year and a half there, completed his report, and returned to England at the end of 1840. In 1842 he set off again as naturalist on H.M.S. Fly sent to survey part of the Great Barrier Reef and the Torres Strait. Jukes returned to England in June 1846; subsequently he published an account of the voyage, as well as several papers on the geology of Australia.

Soon after his return Jukes was appointed to the Geological Survey of Great Britain and began field work in North Wales, later working in the South Staffordshire coalfield. In 1850 he was promoted director of the Irish branch of the Geological Survey, a post he held until his death in 1869. His final illness followed a head injury received in 1864 but was undoubtedly exacerbated by overwork.

It was in Ireland that Jukes carried out the work for which he is best known, a study of river action. The Huttonian concept of intense denudation by the agency of rain and rivers, although maintained by Scrope in 1827, had been eclipsed by Lyell’s advocacy of marine action and earthquakes as the major factors in the shaping of rising land. Darwin, too, had followed Lyell in emphasizing marine erosion. In North America, J. D. Dana was almost alone in stressing the greater powers of subaerial denudation and stream erosion.

Jukes himself had supported the popular marine erosion theory until 1862, when he seems quite suddenly to have changed his views and pronounced in favor of fluvial action as the principal agent in producing land relief.

In 1862 he read, first in Dublin and then in London, a paper which was a careful study of the pattern of river valleys in southern Ireland and their relation to the underlying geological structure. This paper has become a classic in geomorphology. Jukes’s views on the importance of river action were quickly accepted by several leading geologists, particularly Ramsay, Geikie, and Croll. As a result, within a few years Darwin had changed his views and Lyell had modified his.


I. Original Works. A complete list of Juke’s works is given in Letters and Extracts From the Addresses and Occasional Writings of J. Beete Jukes, Mrs. C. A. Browne (his sister), ed. (London, 1871), pp. 591-596. This is also the main source for biographical information. There is a list of his scientific papers in the Royal Society’s Catalogue of Scientific Papers, III (1869), 588.

His classic paper is “On the Mode of Formation of the River-Valleys in the South of Ireland”, in Quarterly Journal of the Geological South of London, 18 (1862), 378-403. A valuable and little-known historical pamphlet by Jukes is his address Her Majesty’s Geological Survey of the United Kingdom, and Its Connection With the Museum of Irish Industry in Dublin and That of Practical Geology in London (Dublin, 1867).

II. Secondary Lithrature. Jukes’s work in geomorphology is fully discussed in R. J. Chorley, A. Dunn, and R. P. Beckinsale, The History of the Study of Landforms (London-New York, 1964), pp. -391-401; and in G. L. Davies, The Earth in Decay (London, 1969), pp. 319-333.

Obituary notices of Jukes are in Geological Magazine,6 (1869), 430-432; and in Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London, 26 (1870), xxxii. See also H. B. Woodward. The History of the Geological Society of London (London, 1907), pp. 187, 228-232. A photograph of Jukes is reproduced in the latter work.

There are letters from Jukes to W. B. Clarke in the Mitchell Library, Sydney, Australia; some of these are quoted in James Jervis, “Rev. W. B. Clarke... the Father of Australian Geology,” in Royal Australian Historical Society, Journal and proceedings, 30 (1944), 345-358.

Joan M. Eyles.