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The Earth on ShowFossils and the Poetics of Popular Science, 1802-1856$
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Ralph O'Connor

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780226616681

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226616704.001.0001

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William Buckland: Antiquary and Wizard

William Buckland: Antiquary and Wizard

(p.71) 2 William Buckland: Antiquary and Wizard
The Earth on Show
University of Chicago Press

This chapter describes the geology lectures of William Buckland. Buckland “ingrafted” geology directly onto the more biblically aligned “theories of the earth,” as well as onto Cuvier's procedures, without drawing (as Cuvier had) a polemical distinction between the two. This attitude did not impress some of Buckland's colleagues in the Geological Society, who continued to dissociate themselves from such a speculative, text-centered perversion of their empirical principles. Yet the publicity that Buckland achieved for his science in the 1820s gave “Oxford geology” a prominent place among the competing versions of geology on offer to leisured non-specialists. He was also a born showman. The lectures had to be entertaining, or nobody would attend them: natural science was optional in the Oxford curriculum, and there were no examinations. One of the chief means by which Buckland's geology opened an “amazing field to imagination” was his visual aids, many of which still survive. He introduced into his lectures not only reconstructions of entire skeletons, but also restorations of the living creatures.

Keywords:   geologists, lectures, Oxford geology, visual aids

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