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SIR RODERICK IMPEY MURCHISON (1792-1871)

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Originally appearing in Volume V19, Page 31 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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SIR RODERICK IMPEY MURCHISON (1792-1871), British geologist, was born at Tarradale, in eastern Ross, Scotland, on the 19th of February 1792. His father, Kenneth Murchison (d. 1796), came of an old Highland clan in west Ross-shire, and having been educated as a medical man, acquired a fortune in India; while still in the prime of life he returned to Scotland, where, marrying one of the Mackenzies of Fairburn, he purchased the estate of Tarradale and settled for a few years as a resident Highland landlord. Young Murchison left the Highlands when three years old, and at the age of seven was sent to the grammar school of Durham, where he remained for six years. He was then placed at the military college, Great Marlow, to be trained for the army. With some difficulty he passed the examinations, and at the age of fifteen was gazetted ensign in the 36th regiment. A year later (18o8) he landed with Wellesley in Galicia, and was present at the actions of Rorica and Vimiera. Subsequently under Sir John Moore he took part in the retreat to Corunna and the final battle there. This was his only active service. The defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo seeming to close the prospect of advancement in the military profession, Murchison, after eight years of service, quitted the army, and married the daughter of General Hugonin, of Nursted House, Hampshire. With her he then spent rather more than two years on the Continent, particularly in Italy, where her cultivated tastes were of signal influence in guiding his pursuits. He threw himself with all the enthusiasm of his character into the study of art and antiquities, and for the first time in his life tasted the pleasures of truly intellectual pursuits. Returning to England in 1818, he sold his paternal property in Ross-shire and settled in England, where he took to field sports. He soon became one of the greatest fox-hunters in the midland counties; but at last, getting weary of such pursuits and meeting Sir Humphry Davy, who urged him to turn his energy to science, he was induced to attend lectures at the Royal Institution. This change in the current of his occupations was much helped by the sympathy of his wife, who, besides her artistic acquirements, took much interest in natural history. Eager and enthusiastic in whatever he undertook, he was fascinated by the young science of geology. He joined the Geological Society of London and soon showed himself one of its most active members, having as his colleagues there such men as Sedgwick, W. D. Conybeare, W. Buckland, W. H. Fitton and Lyell. Exploring with his wife the geology of the south of England, he devoted special attention to the rocks of the north-west of Sussex and the adjoining parts of Hants and Surrey, on which, aided by Fitton, he wrote his first scientific paper, read to the society in 1825. Though he had reached the age of thirty-two before he took any interest in science, he developed his
End of Article: SIR RODERICK IMPEY MURCHISON (1792-1871)
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