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Sir Roderick I Murchison, aka “King of Siluria,” and his Geological Trip to Poland in 1843

Krzywiec, Piotr *1; Narkiewicz, Marek 1; Slaczka, Andrzej 2; Diemer, John 3
(1) Polish Geological Institute NRI, Warsaw, Poland.
(2) Institute of Geological Sciences, Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland.
(3) Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC.

Recent boom in shale gas exploration in Poland is connected primarily to the the Lower Silurian shales of the East European Craton in central and Easter Poland and, secondly, to the Lower Carboniferous shales of the Variscan foreland from Western Poland. Taking this into account, it is interesting to note that one of the most famous geologists of the XIXth century, sir. Roderick I. Murchison (1792 - 1871), very well known for his work on the Paleozoic rocks, spent one field season in Poland studying Paleozoic but also Mesozoic and Tertiary rocks in different parts of this country. Main scientific achievements of R. Murchison include identifying the Silurian, Devonian (together with Adam Sedgwick) and Permian Systems, compilation of geologic maps of Wales, Scotland, Russia and Europe, publication of more than 180 scientific papers and three major books. His important book on the Silurian system went through 5 editions, and his work on rocks of that age earned him a nick-name “King of Siluria”. In 1840 - 1841 Murchison was invited by the Russian tsar Nikolay I to organize two scientific expeditions to Russia. After these two geological expeditions to Russia, Murchison, aware that geological boundaries are not in line with state borders, decided to continue his investigations in Poland. In June 1843 Murchison arrived to Warsaw, where he was met by Ludwik Zejszner (1805-1871), an outstanding Polish geologist, paleontologist and geological cartographer. They both travelled to the Holy Cross Mts. where they studied Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic rocks. Then, they moved to Krakow and further to the South, to reach the highest peaks of the Carpathians, the Tatra Mts. They also visited world-famous Wieliczka salt mine located near Krakow. Part of Murchison’s Polish work was published in “The Geology of Russia”, in “Siluria” and in the Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society. Details of this prolific geological field trip are known from Murchison’s field notebook (kept in the archives of the Geological Society of London), letters sent to his wife Charlotte, and from Zejszner’s field notebooks.


AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90142 © 2012 AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition, April 22-25, 2012, Long Beach, California