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In 1871, Archibald Geikie was appointed as the first holder of the Regius Chair of Geology.


GeoScience was first taught in Edinburgh under the heading of Natural History. Notable professors included Robert Ramsay (1735–1778), John Walker (1731-1803) and Robert Jameson (1774-1854) (who held the Chair for fifty years). In 1870, Sir Roderick Impey Murchison (1792-1871), Director of the Geological Survey of the United Kingdom, proposing that the Chair of Natural History be divided via the creation of a discreet Chair of Geology. To this end he offered to provide an endowment of £6,000 on condition that he was permitted to nominate the first holder (patronage subsequently reverting to the Crown).

The first holder, as nominated by Murchison, was Archibald Geikie, President of the Edinburgh Geological Society and Director of the Geological Survey of Scotland. When he moved to London as Director General of the Geological Survey of Great Britain, he was succeeded by his younger brother James Geikie (1839-1915), who held the post until 1914.


The Geology Department was originally located in Old College, initially as part of the Faculty of Arts then, from, 1893, as part of the Faculty of Science. By the early 20th century, however, new laboratory methods in petrology, palaeontology and economic geology required facilities that could not be provided in existing university buildings. A great influx of students after the First World War placed additional strain on the department. As a temporary measure, wooden huts used by troops during the war were pressed into service, but it was clear that Geology required a new home. This was provided by an endowment of £50,000 from Sir Alexander Grant of Forres in 1929. The Grant Institute, named in his honour, was built at the new Science Campus at [[King's Buildings] and was opened by Grant's friend, Prime Minister James Ramsay Macdonald, on 28 January, 1932.

In the 1980s the Sir John Murray Laboratories were annexed to the Grant Institute. The building houses staff and equipment involved in research in oceanography, climate change, fluid flow in porous media, pollution and similar environmental problems. Additional staff in these disciplines, are housed in the nearby Crew Building.

In 1989, the Department of Geology combined with the Department of Geophysics to become the Department of Geology and Geophysics. The new department became part of the merged Faculty of Science and Engineering in 1991. Following the Reconstitution of Faculties into Colleges in 2002, both Geology and Geophysics have been taught within the School of GeoSciences in the College of Science and Engineering.

List of Professors

Regius Professors of Geology


  • Sir Alexander Grant, The Story of the University of Edinburgh during its First Three Hundred Years, 2 vols (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1884)
  • A History of the School of GeoSciences (accessed 17 June 2014)
  • A. Logan Turner, 'The Faculty of Science', in A. Logan Turner (ed.), History of the University of Edinburgh 1883-1933 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1933), pp. 239-83.