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Edward William Binney (1812-1881)

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Edward William Binney (1812–1881) was an English geologist

1812 Born in Morton, Lincs, son of Thomas Binney (1762–1835), landowner and maltster, and his second wife, Elizabeth Cross.

Educated at Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, Gainsborough.

c.1828 Although inclined to study chemistry which, like natural history, had attracted his attention since childhood, he left school at sixteen and began to study law on his brother's advice. Articled in Chesterfield.

1833 Moved to London, where with help from his brother, completed his legal training.

1835 Took chambers in Manchester where he joined the Manchester Mechanics' Institution. Made friends with John Leigh, with whom he read his first geological paper at the Literary and Philosophical Society in 1835.

He retired soon afterwards from legal practice and gave his chief attention to geological pursuits.

1838 took part in founding the Manchester Geological Society, then chosen as one of the honorary secretaries. His numerous geological works were devoted primarily to the study of the coal measures, and he contributed to the controversial debate on the origin of coal, arguing for its marine formation from vegetation growing in shallow seas.

1851-64 In collaboration with James Young and Edward Meldrum manufactured paraffin from bituminous coals at Bathgate, and achieved great commercial success despite fighting several expensive legal challenges over patents. See Young, Meldrum and Binney and E. W. Binney and Co.

1853 elected fellow of the London Geological Society

1856 Married (1) to Mary Christiana Jones and had six children

1856 through his work with Joseph Dalton Hooker on coal plants, elected fellow of the Royal Society.

He was also successively secretary and president of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society. Working especially at the Carboniferous and Permian rocks of the north of England, he studied also the Drift deposits of Lancashire, which resulted in him and Joseph Dalton Hooker finding the first coal balls, and made himself familiar with the geology of the area around Manchester. On the Coal Measures in particular he became an acknowledged authority, and his Observations on the Structure of Fossil Plants found in the Carboniferous Strata (1868–1875) formed one of the monographs of the Palaeontographical Society. His large collection of fossils was placed in Owens College.

Binney was part of a close Manchester social circle that included James Prescott Joule, William Sturgeon, John Davies and John Leigh.

1857-9 President of the Manchester Geological Society and again in 1866–7

1861 Solicitor, chemical manufacturer and coal proprietor, living in Cheetham, Manchester with Mary C Binney 34, Edward W Binney 3[1]

1865 The partnership of Young, Meldrum and Binney was dissolved

As he grew wealthier, he gave up the legal profession, purchased an estate on the Isle of Man in addition to his home near Manchester,and increased his investments through mining concerns in Scotland.

1881 Died in Manchester[2]




See Also

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  • For Genealogical information, see 'Genealogy of the Binney family in the United States'[3]. This source states that in 1836 he moved to Manchester and lived at Cheetham Hill. He read numerous papers at the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, and there he made the acquaintance of James Young, and together they formed a lucrative partnership to extract paraffin from shale in Scotland. Binney made a large fortune, retired from business, and bought a summer retreat, 'Ravenscliffe', on the Isle of Man. He became ill when travelling between his homes in the Isle of Man and Cheetham Hill, and died at home in Cheetham Hill.

Sources of Information

  1. 1861 census
  2. BMD
  3. [1] 'Genealogy of the Binney family in the United States' by Charles J. F. Binney, 1886
  • Biography of Edward William Binney, ODNB