Geology has been taught at what became the University of Manchester since 1851 when W.C. Williamson was appointed as the first Professor. (He was also Professor of Botany and Zoology in the early years and a medical doctor specialising in ear surgery!) Beginning with Williamson, this book outlines the fascinating story of the growth in teaching and research in geology at one of the world’s foremost centres throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and early years of the present century.
Manchester was one of three centres (with Oxford and Cambridge) which led research and teaching in geology in the UK and associated with the ‘big names’ (Boyd Dawkins, Holland, O.T. Jones, Pugh, Deer, and Vincent). As well as describing the Heads and their contributions, the ‘comings and goings’ of all academic staff are outlined. A chapter on the evolving ‘research scene’ takes readers through the early years, when individual scientists focussed on the basic description of rocks, fossils and minerals or the geological mapping of areas in the UK. This led on to research groups in areas such as experimental petrology, isotope geochemistry and cosmochemistry, and molecular environmental science.
Another major theme of this book covers the student experience and outlines the history of buildings used for teaching and research, along with student numbers, and teaching quality. A more personal aspect is given by a chapter of recollections from former students and staff. These accounts offer a fascinating insight into life as a geology student at Manchester in the mid to late 20th and early 21st centuries. The successes of these geologists led to recognition in the form of knighthoods, fellowships, medals and awards and brought substantial resources into the Department. Although this account ends in 2004, a short ‘epilogue’ speaks of further major developments to around 2018.