Pollock-Morris Correspondence. Letters of Professor Robert Jameson (1774-1854)

Scope and Content

The Jameson Letters in Gen. 1996/15-17, from other correspondents, hold a wide range of content, mostly in English, but some in German and French, on matters ranging from accounts and bills, the health of Abraham Gottlob Werner, Jameson's own health, specimens and catalogue of minerals, contributions to journals, and various introductions. Some of the letters are also about personal matters and plans.

Administrative / Biographical History

The mineralogist Robert Jameson was born in Leith on 11 July 1774. His early education was received in Leith and then he became the apprentice of a surgeon in Leith, with the aim of going to sea. He also attended classes at Edinburgh University, studying medicine, botany, chemistry, and natural history. By 1793, and influenced by the Professor of Natural History, John Walker (1731-1803), he abandoned medicine and the idea of being a ship's surgeon, and focused instead on science, particularly geology and mineralogy. Jameson was given the responsibility of looking after the University's museum. In 1793, he went to London, meeting naturalists and visiting museums to take notes. A visit to the Shetland Islands followed in 1794, to explore the geology, mineralogy, zoology and botany there. This led to the publication of The mineralogy of the Shetland Islands and of Arran, with an appendix containing observations on peat, kelp, and coal (1798). Earlier, in 1796, Jameson read two papers rejecting the vulcanist interpretation of the formation of Earth that had been put forward by Edinburgh geologist James Hutton (1726-1797). Hutton had propounded the theory that the features of the Earth's crust were caused by natural processes over geologic time; the principle of uniformitarianism. Instead, Jameson supported the ideas of Abraham Gottlob Werner (1750-1817) who had proclaimed the aqueous origin of rocks; that rocks were formed when immense quantities of minerals precipitated out of the waters of the biblical flood. Other visits to the Scottish islands in the north and west, and to Ireland, produced the two volume Mineralogy of the Scottish isles (1800) which was a fuller description of his views. In 1800, he spent a year at the mining academy in Freiburg, Saxony, to study under Werner. He returned to Edinburgh in 1802. On the death of Walker in 1803, Jameson was appointed Regius Professor of Natural History and Keeper of the University Museum. Over his fifty year tenure, he built up a huge collection of mineralogical and geological specimens for the Museum, including fossils, birds and insects. Although he had been one of the great exponents of Werner's geological tenets and founded the Wernerian Natural History Society in 1808, Jameson afterwards admitted conversion to the views of Hutton. He died in Edinburgh on 19 April 1854. Shortly after his death, the University Museum was transferred to the Crown and became part of the Royal Scottish Museum (now Royal Museum) in Edinburgh's Chambers Street.

Access Information

Contact the repository for details

Acquisition Information

Papers referred to as the Pollock-Morris collection of manuscripts were preserved by Mrs. Jane Catherine Pollock-Morris, the great-grand-niece of Robert Jameson. Pollock-Morris was the mother of Mrs. Seton Dickson of Symington, Ayrshire, owner of the Pollock-Morris MSS in the late-1960s, and who gifted several Jameson items to Edinburgh University Library.

Other Finding Aids

Handlist, H44; Another important finding aid is the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives. Additions to the typed slips in sheaf binders were made until 1987.

Related Material

The Index to Manuscripts shows papers and correspondence of Robert Jameson at Gen. 121-131, notebooks containing diaries of tours and mineralogical notes of walks at Dc.7.125-136. Other journals, notes, and letters of Professor Jameson are within Gen. 1999.