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Archive collections – Business Papers

Burlington House 1873

Engraving of the new buildings of Burlington House, Piccadilly, taken from 'The Illustrated London News', 10 May 1873. (GSL/PH/1/1) 

The 'Business Papers' series comprises the Society’s own official, historical records, from its foundation in 1807 to the present day, created by the Society in the course of its activities. Includes material on:

  • ‘Ordinary’ General Meetings, 1807 to present
    The original, scientific meetings of the Society at which papers were presented and new members were elected. Before the Council was established in 1810, all business concerning the running of the Society was discussed at Ordinary General Meetings. By the 1970s, the OGM format had changed, the meetings being themed around a specific topic and hence developing into the special scientific meetings which are now held. However, the byelaws of the Society stipulate that only certain business can be considered at OGMs. Therefore OGMs are still held, but generally the meetings only concern the admission of new members.
  • Annual General Meetings, 1809 to present
    The first rules of the Society, dating from 1808, called for an Annual General Meeting at the end of June, at which officers were to be elected, accounts presented and a subscription raised. In 1811 it was agreed that an anniversary dinner should be held on the day following the AGM. By 1818, the AGM and Anniversary Dinner were being held in February, but are now held in June. A presidential address was first read in 1828, and from 1835 the AGM included the presentation of medals and other awards.
  • Council Meetings, 1810 to present 
    Council is responsible for the management and direction of all the affairs of the Society. The first members were appointed on 1 June 1810, holding their inaugural meeting two weeks later on 14 June. Meetings are now held five times a year.
  • Special General Meetings, 1828-2003
    A Special General Meeting can be called at any time for the purpose of taking special matters relating to the business of the Society into consideration. No business can be discussed other than that for which the meeting was called. SGMs mostly concern the establishment, modification or repeal of bye-laws.  
  • Charter and Bye-laws, 1808 to present
    The rules and regulations of the Society under which it operates. In 1824 the Council decided to apply for a Royal Charter in order to allow it to bestow Fellowships of the Society. The charter was granted on 23 April 1825 and the Rev William Buckland, Arthur Aikin, John Bostock MD, George Bellas Greenough and Henry Warburton were nominated as the first Fellows. At the following meeting of Council, the other 367 Society members were also granted Fellow status.  Ironically many of these new Fellows, such as Greenough, held republican views - hence why 'Royal' was never adopted into the Society's name.
  • Fellowship and Membership, 1807 to present 
    Up until 1825, there were only two categories of membership – Ordinary Member and Honorary Member (the latter becoming 'Foreign Member' from 1814). In 1826, to reflect the Society's new Royal Charter (awarded in 1825), Ordinary Members became 'Fellows' whilst the Foreign Member category remained as it was. ‘Foreign Correspondent’ (a stage below Foreign Member) was added in 1863, and in 1974 the two ‘Foreign’ categories were merged to become ‘Honorary Fellow’. Other categories have been added in recent years, notably ‘Chartered Geologist’, a professional grade of membership.
  • Production of the Society’s journals and publications, 1818-2009 
    The ‘Transactions of the Geological Society of London’ was the Society’s first journal, issued in 1811. In 1822 it was replaced by a cheaper-to-produce second series which continued until 1856. Between 1827 and 1845, ‘Proceedings of the Geological Society of London’ was issued. From 1845 this was effectively replaced by the ‘Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London’ [now ‘Journal of the Geological Society of London], however an ‘Abstracts of the Proceedings of the Geological Society of London’ was produced between 1857 and 1971. From the late 1950s, the Society branched out into producing other non-journal format, academic works such as the ‘Special Publication’ series (first issued in 1964), a series of volumes containing articles by multiple authors on a particular subject. See also Bernard Leake’s A brief history of Geological Society Publishing.
  • Museum of the Geological Society, 1808-1911 
    From its earliest days, the Geological Society collected specimens. Unlike rival collections at the British Museum and other learned bodies, the Society's Museum was intended to be comprehensive. However, keeping and curating such a work-intensive museum was always problematic, and by 1911 the decision was reached to dispose of the remaining collection. The ‘British’ specimens were sent to the Geological Survey and Museum [now in the British Geological Survey] and the ‘Foreign’ specimens and the major catalogues were given to the Natural History Museum. See: Thackray, John. 'A short history of the Museum of the Geological Society of London, 1807-1911, with a catalogue of the British and Irish accessions, and notes on surviving collections.' Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History), historical series, vol 19 (1991), pp 51-160. 
  • Portraits of Fellows and staff, 1792-2011
    The Society holds a large number of likenesses of its Fellows. The majority of the grander paintings and busts are on display in the Society’s apartments in Burlington House, but there is a large collection of photographs, prints and drawings in the Archives. The majority of the portraits (c. 1,000) derive from a concerted effort by the Society to collect images of its Fellows when commercial photography became more freely available from the 1860s. After the 1920s or so, and up until the 1990s, portraits were generally only collected of the Presidents of the Society.
  • Geological Society Club, 1824 to present 
    The Geological Society had originally formed as a 'Geological Dinner Club' at the Freemason's Tavern, Great Queen Street, London, on 13 November 1807. However, whilst the Society flourished, attendance at the Dining Club rapidly declined and by around 1811 meetings of the Club had ceased. The present Club was revived in 1824. Traditionally, meetings were held on the evenings of every Ordinary Meeting of the Society, but are now monthly. Although further accessions has meant the catalogue references are out of date, a history of Club appears in: Gray, D A. A review of the archives of the Geological Society Club: from the founding in 1824 to the sesquicentennial in 1974. Geological Society Club, 1995.
  • Institution of Geologists, 1973-1991 
    In 1973 a Working Party on Professional Recognition was established to “study the feasibility of maintaining a professional register of geologists". As no existing organisation was deemed appropriate for all geologists to become members, the Working Party recommended that a professional body should be established – the Institution of Geologists (IG). At the beginning of 1991, the IG merged with the Society, its main legacy being the professional categories of membership which are now offered. For more information, see Rick Brassington’s The Institution of Geologists – a brief history.

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