Hugh Miller bigraphy, stories - Geologists

Hugh Miller : biography

1802 - 1856

Hugh Miller (1802–1856) was a self-taught Scottish geologist and writer, folkloristLizanne Henderson, 'The Natural and Supernatural Worlds of Hugh Miller', in Celebrating the Life and Times of Hugh Miller. Scotland in the Early 19th Century Ed. Lester Borley. Cromarty Arts Trust, 2003. 89–98. and an evangelical Christian.


Miller's death was very tragic, and his life brief, but he left a heritage of new discoveries of several Silurian sea scorpions (the eurypterid genus Hughmilleria was named in his honour), and many Devonian fishes, including several placoderms (the arthrodire Millerosteus also honoured him), described in his popular books. Though he had no academic credentials, he is today considered one of Scotland's premier palaeontologists.

There is a bust of Hugh Miller in the Hall of Heroes at the Wallace Monument in Stirling. His home in Cromarty is open as a geological museum, with specimens collected in the immediate area; a week-end event at the site in 2008 was part of celebrations marking the bicentenary of the Geological Society of London. 12 April 2008 .

The BP-operated Miller oilfield in the North Sea was named after Hugh Miller.

Illness and death

For most of 1856, Miller suffered severe headaches and the most probable diagnosis is of psychotic depression. Victorian medicine did not help. He feared that he might harm his wife or children because of persecutory delusions.

Miller committed suicide, shooting himself in the head with a revolver in his house on Tower Street, Portobello, on the night he had finished checking printers' proofs for his book on Scottish fossil plants and vertebrates, The Testimony of the Rocks. Before his death, he wrote a poem called Strange but True.A Dictionary of English Authors, Biographical and Bibliographical, Robert Farquharson Sharp, 1904, p. 198 ()

A shocked Western world mourned him, and his funeral procession was among the largest in the memory of Edinburgh residents.

He is buried in the Grange Cemetery in Edinburgh.

Main works

  • Scenes and legends of the north of Scotland : or, The traditional history of Cromarty (1834)
  • The old red sandstone : or, New walks in an old field (1841)
  • First impressions of England and its people (1847)
  • The foot-prints of the Creator: or, The Asterolepis of Stromness (1849)
  • My schools and schoolmasters; or, The story of my education (1854)
  • The cruise of the Betsey : or, a summer ramble among the fossiliferous deposits of the Hebrides ; with Rambles of a geologist ; or, Ten thousand miles over the fossiliferous deposits of Scotland (1857)
  • The testimony of the rocks; or, Geology in its bearings on the two theologies, natural and revealed (1857)
  • The old red sandstone; or, New walks in an old field. To which is appended a series of geological papers, read before the Royal Physical Society of Edinburgh (1858)
  • Sketch-book of popular geology being a series of lectures delivered before the Philosophical Institution of Edinburgh (1859)
  • Popular geology: a series of lectures read before the Philosophical Institution of Edinburgh, with Descriptive sketches from a geologist's portfolio (1859)
  • The headship of Christ and The rights of the Christian people (1860)
  • Tales and sketches (1862)
  • Edinburgh and its neighbourhood, geological and historical; with the geology of the Bass rock (1863)
  • Essays, historical and biographical, political, social, literary and scientific (1865)
  • Sketch-book of popular geology (1869)
  • Hugh Miller's memoir : from stonemason to geologist by Hugh Miller (1995)
  • Hugh Miller and the controversies of Victorian science (1996)

Life and work

Born in Cromarty, he was educated in a parish school where he reportedly showed a love of reading. At 17 he was apprenticed to a stonemason, and his work in quarries, together with walks along the local shoreline, led him to the study of geology. In 1829 he published a volume of poems, and soon afterwards became involved in political and religious controversies, first connected to the Reform Bill, and then with the division in the Church of Scotland which led to the Disruption of 1843.

In 1834 he became accountant in one of the local banks, and in the next year brought out his Scenes and Legends in the North of Scotland. In 1840 the popular party in the Church, with which he had been associated, started a newspaper, the Witness, and Miller was called to be editor in Edinburgh, a position which he retained till the end of his life.

Among his geological works are The Old Red Sandstone (1841), Footprints of the Creator (1850), The Testimony of the Rocks (1856), Sketch-book of Popular Geology. Of these books, perhaps The Old Red Sandstone was the best-known. The Old Red Sandstone is still a term used to collectively describe sedimentary rocks deposited as a result of the Caledonian orogeny in the late Silurian, Devonian and earliest part of the Carboniferous period.

Miller held that the Earth was of great age, and that it had been inhabited by many species which had come into being and gone extinct, and that these species were homologous; although he believed the succession of species showed progress over time, he did not believe that later species were descended from earlier ones. He denied the Epicurean theory that new species occasionally budded from the soil, and the Lamarckian theory of development of species, as lacking evidence. He argued that all this showed the direct action of a benevolent Creator, as attested in the Bible – the similarities of species are manifestations of types in the Divine Mind; he accepted the view of Thomas Chalmers that Genesis begins with an account of geological periods, and does not mean that each of them is a day; Noah's Flood was a limited subsidence of the Middle East. Geology, to Miller, offered a better version of the argument from design than William Paley could provide, and answered the objections of sceptics, by showing that living species did not arise by chance or by impersonal law.Miller, Testimony of the Rocks, Lecture Five, et passim.

Living octopus

Living octopus

In countries which are located near sea coasts, sea food is an important part of national cuisine