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British Industrial History

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Charles Lapworth

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Prof Charles Lapworth FRS LLD FGS (20 September 1842 – 13 March 1920) was an English geologist who pioneered faunal analysis using index fossils and identified the Ordovician period.

He trained as a teacher in Oxfordshire, then moved to the Scottish borders. In 1869 he married Janet, daughter of Galashiels schoolmaster Walter Sanderson. Through patient mapping and innovative use of index fossil analysis, based on a sequence exposed at Dob's Linn, he showed that what was thought to be a thick sequence of Silurian rocks was in fact a much thinner series of rocks repeated by faulting and folding.

Charles Lapworth also devoted time to mapping near Durness in Scotland's northwest highlands. He observed the presence of older rock formations overlaying younger ones, contrary to the theory about the stratification of the Highland rock formations propounded by the pre-eminent geologist of the day, Sir Roderick Impey Murchison. Lapworth proposed the controversial theory that complex folding or faulting was a cause. Later the noted geologists Benjamin Peach and John Horne were dispatched to the area to investigate his claims, and their findings proved Lapworth correct.

In 1881 he became the first professor of geology at Mason Science College, later the University of Birmingham, where he taught until his retirement.

His son Arthur Lapworth became a renowned chemist, and his son Herbert Lapworth became a civil engineer, engineering geologist, stratigrapher and palaeontologist.

The above information is largely condensed from the Wikipedia entry, accessed 9 July 2019.

See also Charles Lapworth's biography on the University of Birmingham website here.


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