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JAMES CROLL (1821-1890)

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Originally appearing in Volume V07, Page 482 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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JAMES CROLL (1821-1890), Scottish man of science, was born of a peasant family at Little Whitefield, in the parish of Cargill, in Perthshire, on the 2nd of January 1821. He was regarded as an unpromising boy, but a trifling circumstance aroused a passion for reading, and he made great progress in self-education. He was apprenticed to a wheelwright at Collace in Perthshire, but being debarred by ill-health from manual labour, he became successively a shop-keeper and an insurance agent. In 1859 he was made keeper of the Andersonian Museum in Glasgow, a humble appointment, which, however, gave him congenial occupation. In 1857, being deeply impressed by the metaphysics of Jonathan Edwards, he had published an anonymous volume entitled The Philosophy of Theism; but his connexion with the Museum induced him to take up physical science, and from 1861 onwards he studied with such perseverance that he was enabled to contribute papers to the Philosophical Magazine and other journals. For that magazine in 1864 he wrote his celebrated essay " On the Physical Cause of the Changes of Climate during Geological Epochs." This led to his receiving an appointment on the Scottish Geological Survey in 1867, and for thirteen years he took charge of the Edinburgh Office. In 1875 he summed up his researches upon the ancient condition of the earth in his Climate and Time, in their Geological Relations, in which he contends that terrestrial revolutions are due in a measure to cosmical causes. This theory excited warm controversy. Croll's replies to his opponents are collected in his Climate and Cosmology (1885). He had been compelled by ill-health to withdraw from the public service in 188o; yet, working under the greatest difficulties, and harassed by the inadequacy of his retiring pension, he managed to produce Stellar Evolution, discussing, among other things, the age of the . sun, in 1889; and The Philosophical Basis of Evolution, partly a critique of Herbert Spencer's philosophy, in 189o. He died on the 15th of December 189o. The soundness of Croll's astronomical theory regarding the glacial .period has since been criticized by E. P. Culverwell in the Geological Magazine for 1895, and by others; and it is now generally abandoned. Nevertheless it must be admitted that his character as a scientific worker under great discouragements was nothing less than heroic. The hon. degree of LL.D. was conferred on him in 1876 by the university of St Andrews; and he was elected F.R.S. in the same year. An Autobiographical Sketch of James Croll, with Memoir of his Life and Work, was prepared by J. C. Irons, and published in 1896.
End of Article: JAMES CROLL (1821-1890)
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