University of Cambridge > > Cabinet of Natural History > Exploring John Woodward's scientific writing in his catalogues of fossils (1728, 1729)

Exploring John Woodward's scientific writing in his catalogues of fossils (1728, 1729)

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The 9,600 specimens that form the geological collection of Dr John Woodward (1667–1728) were, in part, bequeathed to the University of Cambridge. Of the four cabinets that housed his collection, the two not bequeathed were purchased by the University from Woodward’s executors, thus keeping the collection intact. Woodward was meticulous in detailing the provenance of his specimens, whether collected by himself or donated by others. This he did in a number of hand-written catalogues which are housed today in the Sedgwick Museum’s archives. These catalogues, subsequently published in two volumes after Woodward’s death, are not merely lists of specimens. They contain many of Woodward’s ideas on geology, mineralogy and palaeontology. Although he is best remembered for his contentious An Essay toward a Natural History of the Earth:... published in 1695, the catalogues contain a wealth of observations and interpretations of the geological world by Woodward that were, in many cases, hundreds of years ahead of their time. Along with a discussion of his classification of rocks and minerals, and hierarchical classification of fossilised organic remains, I will examine a number of his insightful interpretations based on his collection, especially in palaeoecology and taphonomy, showing that Woodward deserves to be credited with being one of the first scientific geologists.

This talk is part of the Cabinet of Natural History series.

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