Part Two: Setting the stage for a scientific community pg.4


Part Two: Setting the stage for a scientific community (continued)


Amongst De la Beche’s published scientific works were ‘A Geological Manual’ (1831) and ‘Researchers in Theoretical Geology’(1834), two works which had a great influence on a young Canadian geologist William Edmond Logan (1798-1875), whose underlying technical experience in geology was formed during his time in Wales between 1831-41. During this time Logan worked as a manager at the Forest Copper Works at Swansea and was introduced to De la Beche by Lewis Weston Dillwyn, and eventually Logan became an unpaid member of the Geological Survey team. Logan’s increasing dedication to geology led him to undertake the first detailed map of the geology of the Swansea area, as earlier maps were extremely generalised. De la Beche recognised the quality of Logan’s mapping, and on the 14 September 1837 Logan presented his map to the British Association Annual meeting in Liverpool. Logan and De la Beche were not only compatible professionally due to their expertise and commitment in the field, but also became close friends. Logan’s involvement with science in Swansea led him to being joint secretary of the RIAS from 1840 until 1842 when the Canadian government offered him a post to conduct a geological survey of the province.

A close friend of Logan and his colleague at the RISW, was the conchologist John Gwyn Jeffreys,’ who was elected Honorary Secretary for the first year. Jeffreys was a brilliant naturalist who was supported and guided by Lewis Weston Dillwyn, and whose talents would lead him to become an internationally renowned conchologist and a pioneer of deep sea dredging. In recognising Jeffreys impressive talents Dillwyn ceased his own interests in shells, as he acknowledged that Jeffreys was more accomplished than himself in this field. Dillwyn encouraged him to publish his first work which earned Jeffreys a fellowship of the Linnaean Society in 1830. The work, ‘A Synopsis of the Testaceous Pneumobranchous Mollusca of Great Britain.’ was honoured by the Linnean Society by publication in their ‘Transactions’ in 1828. Jeffreys was also interested in the animals that created and lived in the shells and after years of research he published a five volume work entitled, ‘British Conchology’ (1862-1869), which is still a recognised source of knowledge of the 80,000 to 100,000 different species of molluscs. In the well illustrated volume 5 Jeffreys states that science still had a lot to learn regarding molluscs, and quotes Seneca; ‘Enough, if something from our hands have power. To live, and act, and serve the future hour.’ While a practical scientist Jeffreys also enjoyed imagination and fiction and this is illustrated when it is used by him to clarify his views, such as that dredging was the superior method for collecting the fauna of the ocean Jeffrey’s used the naturalist Edward Forbes (1815-1854) poem on dredging;

With its iron edge,

And its mystical triangle,

And its hided net with meshes set,

Odd fishes to entangle.

The Dillwyns’ central role in Swansea’s scientific community is evident from a number of small but significant scientific experiments that took place in Swansea in August 1844, significant because the individual was Charles Wheatstone (1806-1875) and the experiments were sub-marine telegraphy. Charles Wheatstone was a professor at King’s College London and it was his initiative in the 1830’s that began the development of the electric telegraph and later on the sub-marine telegraphy, although it is accepted that the main scientific contributions came from William Thomson (later 1st Baron Kelvin 1824-1907). Clearly then it is interesting that Wheatstone stayed with John Dillwyn at his Penllergare estate and assisted Wheatstone in conducting sub-marine telegraphy experiments off Mumbles Head, although it is only recorded in the diaries of his father and his brother, Lewis Llewelyn. The telegraph system allowed quicker communication between scientists who were often in regular correspondence with each other and it especially had an effect on international links between overseas colleagues, and this was further endorsed by a viable transatlantic cable in the 1860s.


Next Page, Part Three: A high point and a lost opportunity