Papers of Rolland J. B. Munro relating to James Hutton (1726-1797)

Scope and Content

The collection contained in two files, six notebooks and one envelope within an archive box is composed of: copies in typescript of On the loss of James Hutton's geological collection, an address given on 12 March 1941; notes on James Hutton and the wider Hutton family; correspondence 1939; correspondence 1942-1947; notes on Hutton and Isaac Newton; and address delivered by Munro to the Edinburgh Geological Society, 19 March 1947; genealogical notes; and, assorted notes and correspondence.

Administrative / Biographical History

James Hutton was most well known for achievements in geology. He was born in Edinburgh on 3 June 1726. He was educated at the city's Royal High School and he studied at Edinburgh University first matriculating there in 1740. His most important contribution to science was the Theory of the Earth (1785) which earned him the accolade of 'founder of modern geology'. In his work, he noted: "with respect to Human observation, this world has neither a beginning nor an end" - a principle now accepted as axiomatic. Hutton also had interests in the physical sciences, in particular, chemistry, physics and meteorology. Toward the end of his life he published a three-part book entitled Dissertations on Different Subjects in Natural Philosophy (1792) where he discussed mostly meteorology, phlogiston, and the theory of matter. Hutton also engaged in more philosophical concerns of the time. He published a three volume treatise on metaphysics and moral philosophy entitled An Investigation of the Principles of Knowledge and of the Progress of Reason, From Sense to Science and Philosophy ( 1794). James Hutton died on 26 March 1797.

On his death, Hutton's sister Isabella gave his collection of fossils to Dr. Joseph Black (1728-1799), Professor of Chemistry at Edinburgh University, and he in turn presented them to the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Trace of the fossil collection was then lost, and this became a research interest of Rolland J. B. Munro working in the 1930s and 1940s.

Access Information

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.

Acquisition Information

Material acquired from Munro, May 1986, Accession no. E86.31.


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of national biography. Vol. 10. Howard-Kenneth. London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1908. (2) Biographies D-N. Full-text [online].   Hutton, James 1726-1797. Geologist [Accessed 12 March 2004].

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division.

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.


Check the local Indexes for details of any additions.