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Early speculations about Earth expansion
by Alfred Wilks Drayson (1827-1901)
and William Thorp (1804-1860)


Stephen W. Hurrell


In 1859, speculations about the possibility of Earth expansion were entertained by the Victorian polymathic scientist Alfred Wilks Drayson and his good friend William Thorp, a respected geologist and founding member of the Yorkshire Geological Society.

Drayson outlined his speculations about Earth expansion in his 1859 book, The Earth we Inhabit, Its Past, Present and Future. This seems to be the first book devoted entirely to considering the possibility of Earth expansion. Thorp and Drayson also presented the first known lecture about Earth expansion to geologists at the Yorkshire Geological Society in 1859. Despite the interest shown in Earth expansion at the time these early speculations were essentially forgotten until Drayson’s book was briefly mentioned by Professor S. Warren Carey in 1988, whilst Thorp remained overlooked.

Drayson was an officer in the British Royal Artillery, eventually reaching the rank of Major-General. In addition to distinguishing himself in his military profession, he also became a Military Professor at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. Drayson later became friends with Arthur Conan Doyle, the world-renowned author and creator of Sherlock Holmes, who was so impressed with Drayson’s scientific achievements he immortalised him within his books as various fictional characters.

Key Words:  biographies, Earth science history, expanding Earth

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Suggested Citing Format
Hurrell, S.W. (2017). Early speculations about Earth expansion by Alfred Wilks Drayson (1827-1901) and William Thorp (1804-1860).

Page created  23 Jun 17
Page updated 25 Mar 19

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