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Hall Collection

TitleHall Collection
DescriptionThis collection contains the first experimental apparatus for simulating melting and other processes in rocks. It was collected by Scottish geologist Sir James Hall of Dunglass (1761-1832). His interest in his friend James Hutton’s conclusion that igneous rocks are the product of melting at high temperatures, led him to design this set of apparatus. The importance of the collection is not just in its age and novelty, but in what it represents about the thought processes of prominent scientists during the Scottish Enlightenment. Born at Dunglass (East Lothian), James Hall inherited the Baronetcy of Dunglass from his father when aged only fifteen. He was educated at the Universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh, and the military college at Brienne (France), where Napoleon Bonaparte was a fellow student. Noted for his practical research in the field of geology, Hall was friendly with other prominent geologists in Edinburgh at the time of the Scottish Enlightenment, namely James Hutton (1726-97) and John Playfair (1748 - 1819). A Plutonist, convinced of the involvement of heat and pressure in the formation of igneous rocks, Hall undertook various experiments involving the melting and cooling of rocks and thereby established the composition of whinstone and basalt lava. He invented a machine for regulating high temperatures, which was described posthumously to the Geological Society in London by his son, Basil Hall (1788 - 1844). Hall also determined that limestone could form marble without decomposition, if subjected to considerable pressure while being heated. His work vindicated the theories of Hutton, which suggested most rocks were formed deep within the earth, over Werner and the Neptunists, who believed all rocks had been deposited from a primaeval ocean. Hall also travelled extensively in Europe, conducting field-work in the Alps and in Italy, where he noted the similarity of recent lava flows to the ancient rocks at certain locations in Scotland. Sir James Hall was President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and published many scientific papers on geology.
CustodianSir James Hall of Dunglass
Custodial HistoryOn long term loan to the University.
OriginEdinburgh; Europe; Scotland; United Kingdom
Parent Collection Geology Collection