The 'ingenious' Rev. Dr. John Walker : chemistry, mineralogy and geology in Enlightenment Edinburgh (1740-1800)
Rev. Dr. John Walker (1731-1803) held the Regius Chair of Natural History in the University of Edinburgh's Medical School from 1779 until 1803. As a student of William Cullen, advisor to Lord Karnes and friend of Joseph Black, he went on to teach well over seven hundred students and was a founding member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. This study uses his career to trace the course of the nascent earth sciences within the Medical School's local reality. It is based on the publications of Walker and his colleagues, and on the vast archive of his personal manuscripts, correspondence and lecture notes housed in the University of Edinburgh’s Special Collections. After Chapter 1's biographical introduction, Chapters 2 and 3 concentrate on his early chemical education and show that a principle-based form of experimental pharmacology laid the epistemological and methodological foundation for Edinburgh's interest in mineralogy. This is done by examining the Medical School's 1750s chemistry course in relation to Walker's early publications and then by detailing his mid-career tours and attempts at mineralogical taxonomy. Moving on to his time as Professor of Natural History, Chapters 4 and 5 excavate his 'fossil' sources and vocabulary and detail his 1797 mineralogical system. The final chapter gives an account of his geology lectures and how they were directly affected by his conception of chemistry and mineralogy; special attention is given to geological methodology, time, extraneous fossils and testimony taken from classical works. The conclusion proceeds to illustrate how histories interested in the 'forerunners' of the chemical revolution and/or the evolutionary paradigm ignore the large number of chemically trained industrialists and medical professionals who contributed to Enlightenment concepts of the earth's form and structure.