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Bust of Adam Sedgwick (1785-1873)

Adam Sedgwick  

Marble portrait bust of Adam Sedgwick, by Henry Weekes, 1846. (GSL/POR/27) Photograph by Alistair Fyfe, 2009.

Provenance: Presented to the Society by Henry Weekes, 1846.

Elected a Member of the Society on 6 November 1818 (no.478), and served as President between 1829-1831. Awarded the Wollaston Medal in 1851.

Sedgwick was appointed Woodwardian Professor of Geology of the University of Cambridge in 1818 (a post which he held until his death in 1873) despite admitting to knowing very little about the subject at the time. However, Sedgwick energetically threw himself into the new science and undertook his first geological field trip with John Stevens Henslow to the Isle of Wight that year, the findings from the excursion forming his first course of university lectures. 

 Carte de visite photographic portrait of Sir Roderick Impey Murchison, by Maull & Co, [1865-1871]. (GSL/POR/44/03-03)
Sedgwick's first geological paper was on the physical structure of Devonshire and Cornwall, which was read before the Cambridge Philosophical Society in 1820, an organisation of which he was also co-founder.  Sedgwick continued with his summer field trips, learning much from Henslow and William Daniel Conybeare, and in 1828 accompanied Roderick Impey Murchison on a tour of Scotland.  Murchison, whom Sedgwick met at the Geological Society, was less experienced than he, but they became close friends publishing a number of joint papers on the geology of Britain and Europe between 1828-1842.

With Murchison, Sedgwick established the Devonian System and in North Wales the Cambrian System. The upper limit of the latter system of rocks led to a bitter controversy with Murchison, only being resolved with the establishment of the Ordovician System after Sedgwick’s death.