Schuh’s Annotated Bio-Bibliography

Return to main Biobliography page


(1811 – 1839)

Memoirs, 1811

1. English, 1811-39 [Periodical].
Memoirs | Of The | Wernerian | Natural History Society. | Vol. I. | For The Year 1808,-9,-10. | [double rule] | With Fifteen Engravings. | [tapered rule] | Edinburgh, | Printed For Bell & Bradrute, W. Creech, P. Hill, | Manners & Miller, A. Constable & Co., | W. Blackwood, And J. Ballantyne & Co.; | And For | Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, And Brown, | White & Cochran, And J. Murray, | London. | [rule] | 1811.

8°: 7 vols. and part 1 of volume 8, all published, illustrations, plates (partly colored), maps, facsim., tables, diagrams.

Rare. Periodical. In 1808, a group of supporters for Werner's geological theories, led by Robert Jameson effectively seceded from the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and founded the Wernerian Natural History Society, placing Werner himself at the head of the honorary membership list. Jameson was elected president, a position he retained for the existance of the Society, which lasted until 1838. The creation of this Society added considerablly to the Huttonian-Wernerian debate in Scotland, as Hutton, Playfair and Hall remained members of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Hutton never had many supporters eventhough his theories held a powerful grip on the Royal Society of Edinburgh (Porter, 1980). In contrast, Jameson had far more followers in the Wernerian Natural History Society and was able to establish a program of mapping and descriptive geology that was of real importance to Scottish geology. However, the unity of the Wernerian Society lay in loyalty to the theories of Werner and his principal advocate in Scotland, Jameson. Many members of Society were Jameson's pupils or ex-pupils, and "it flourished and decayed in pulse with his own interests in Wernerian geognosy" (Porter, 1980). Thus, when the Neptunists were defeated, the Wernerian Natural History Society lost its purpose, and ceased to exist.

In 1826, while the great American naturalist John James Audubon searched in Great Britain for a publisher for his ornithological masterpiece, Birds of America, he was invited to the Wernerian Society. He recorded his impressionsions of this visit in his journal: "We enter the room of the Wernerian Society of Edinburgh! What a name it has in America! The room is a plain oblong square, and two tables, one chimney, many long seats, and a chair for the President were all I saw there with the exception of a stuffed Swordfish on the table for examination that day. Several persons were already present. I unrolled drawing of the Buzzard for them to look at. Professor Jameson came in. I knew the secretary Patrick Neill, Mr. Witham, Professor Russell &c. P. Neill read my letter on the Buzzard first, not very well. Professor Jameson rose, made quite a eulogy about it, all my work, and lastly about myself. I had the Society's thanks. ... Professor Jameson then ... offered me as an Honorary Member of the Society. Everyone clapped hand and stamped the floor [as a] mark of approbation. Then the professor desired that the usual law of suffering the election to be tried for months should be infringed upon that I be elected at the next meeting. The same acclamations took place, and the Society [adjourned]" (Audubon, 1987: 396).