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Robert A. C. Godwin-Austen (1808–84)

    Naturevolume 134page803 (1934) | Download Citation



    NOVEMBER 25 is the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Robert Godwin-Austen (whose name was originally Austen, afterwards changed to Godwin-Austen). Godwin-Austen was prominent in the ranks of the early British geologists, and a notable and constant contributor to geological science. He was born in 1808, and died at Shalford House, Guildford, at the age of seventy-six years. Austen's interest in geology had been stimulated whilst at the University of Oxford, where he had been a pupil of Buckland. He joined the Geological Society of London in 1830 (the year of publication of Lyell's “Principles of Geology”), when Sedgwick was its president, and read his first geological paper at Somerset House entitled, “An Account of the Raised Beach, near Hope's Nose, in Devonshire, and upon recent Disturb ances in that Neighbourhood” on November 19, 1834. Austen was then residing at Ogwell House, near Newton Abbot, and this paper was the forerunner of pioneer field work in Devonshire, and a close association with De La Beche. The latter recorded that in the district extending from Dartmouth to Chudleigh he was principally indebted, as regards this part of the Geological Survey Map of Devon, to Austen; Phillips mentioned the “splendid series of fossils … fruit of the personal exertions of Mr. Austen”. Further observations on south-east Devonshire were embodied in a classic paper covering the years 1834-40. Certain inferences respecting the Coal Measures were detailed in the paper “On the possible Extension of the Coal-measures beneath the south-eastern part of England” (1856). Godwin-Austen was awarded the Wollaston medal of the Geological Society in 1862, and referred to as “pre eminently the physical geographer of bygone periods”. In later years he resided at Shalford, Guildford, and there were consequent changes in his geological studies in a new area. Godwin-Austen was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1849.

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