Earth Collections : MacCulloch database

The MacCulloch database contains details of geological specimens collected by John MacCulloch (1773-1835). It comprises over 3,000 rocks, minerals, and fossils mainly from Scotland.

MacCulloch's pioneering work on rock classification, and on the geology of Scotland, which he mapped in great detail, were recognised in his appointments to Fellow of the Royal Society and President of the Geological Society. He published at least 79 scientific papers, nine books and numerous articles on a vast range of subjects. He produced the first geological map of any country based on original survey and paid for by a Government. This was mostly done as a side-line to his duties to the Board of Ordnance, for whom he was searching for suitable mill-stones for gunpowder grinding mills, and for mountains suitable for a repetition of Maskelyne's Schiehallion experiments.

The collection was originally donated by MacCulloch's wife to the British Museum after his death. In 1858 it was moved to the new museum at Oxford with Mrs MacCulloch's permission. Until lately the collection had been badly neglected and has only recently been comprehensively catalogued. Most rocks in the collection were neatly trimmed and labelled with locality details by MacCulloch himself. A century and a half has seen some of those labels lost or destroyed but nearly three thousand remain clear and intact. Fortunately many of these samples can be closely matched to often minutely-detailed descriptions in his books (especially Geology of the Western Islands, 1819) and papers.

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