S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Jones, Prof Thomas Rupert (geology, palaeontology)

Born: 1 October 1819, London, United Kingdom.
Died: 13 April 1911, Chesham, Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom.

T. Rupert Jones, British geologist and palaeontologist, never visited southern Africa but contributed significantly to the development of geological and palaeontological knowledge of the sub-continent. He was educated in private schools and showed an early interest in rocks and fossils. In 1835 he was apprenticed to a surgeon, completing his training in 1842 at Newbury, Berkshire. Then followed eight years as a medical assistant in London (1842-1850). He made microscopic studies of fossil and recent foraminifera and entomostraca, and in 1849 published his Monograph on the Cretaceous entomostraca of England - a topic on which he became a leading authority in Britain. Further monographs on the entomostraca, estheriae, foraminifera and phyllopoda followed over the next five decades.

From 1851 to 1862 he was assistant secretary of the Geological Society of London, and from 1850 to 1865 edited its Quarterly Journal with distinction. He edited several books on geology and became an expert in geological bibliography. Meanwhile he also published papers on the geological history of Newbury (1854) and on the geology of the nearby Kennet Valley (1871). In 1858 he became a lecturer in geology, and in 1862 professor of geology, at the Royal Military College, London, and later at the Staff College, Sandhurst. He retired in 1880, when the military authorities gave up the teaching of geology. Thereafter he continued his research on microzoa and published many papers on a variety of geological and related topics.

Jones was particularly interested in South African geology and wrote many papers and reviews on it. In 1867 he contributed a note, "Synopsis of the Karroo Beds" to a paper by R. Tate, "On some secondary fossils from South Africa" in the Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society. In it he extended the Karoo Series to include the Dwyka tillite (his Trap Breccia) and the underlying shales. Other papers dealt with coal in the Stormberg (1871); fossils from the Devonian rocks of the Witzenberg Flats, Cape Colony (1872); a fossil bivalved entomostraca from the Karoo rocks near Cradock (1878); reviews of the geology of South Africa (1884), its geology and mineral products (1886), coal deposits (1886), and mineral wealth (1887); small bivalve shells from the Karoo rocks (1890); the great glacial moraine of Permian age in South Africa (1899); the geology of west Swaziland (1899); and the Enon Conglomerate and its fossil estheriae (1901). He also wrote obituaries of W.G. Atherstone* and G.W. Stow*.

As assistant secretary of the Geological Society of London he wrote to A.G. Bain* to thank him for his pioneering paper on South African geology and over the years corresponded with many South African geologists. Always ready to assist others, he often added useful notes to the papers they submitted. He assembled a remarkably complete collection of early literature on South African geology, which was acquired for the library of the Geological Society of South Africa by David Draper* in 1897. In recognition of his contributions to South African geology he was elected an honorary vice-president of the Geological Society of South Africa that year.

Jones was a fellow of the Geological Society of London and was awarded its Lyell Medal in 1890. In 1872 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of London. He served as president of the Geologists' Association during 1879-1881, and as president of the section on geology of the British Association for the Advancement of science in 1891. A man of sturdy build, he had a cheerful disposition and a pronounced sense of humour, and was a fluent lecturer.

List of sources:

Draper, D. Catalogue of the "Rupert Jones" collection of papers and manuscripts. Transactions of the Geological Society of South Africa, 1898, Vol. 4, pp. 77-86.

Geological Society of South Africa. Transactions, 1897, Vol. 2.

Geology is Africana [by R.F. Kennedy]. Africana Notes and News, 1970, Vol. 19(1), pp. 3-11.

National Union Catalogue, pre-1956 imprints. London: Mansell, 1968-1980.

Oxford dictionary of national biography. Oxford University Press, 2004.

Rogers, A.W. The pioneers in South African geology and their work. Transactions of the Geological Society of South Africa, 1937, Annexure to Vol. 39, pp. 1-139.

South African bibliography to the year 1925. London: Mansell, 1979.

South African Committee for Stratigraphy. Stratigraphy of South Africa, Part 1. Lithostratigraphy... (p. 535). Pretoria: Geological Survey of South Africa, Handbook 8, 1980.

Young, R.B. Anniversary address by the president. Proceedings of the Geological Society of South Africa, 1927, Vol. 30, pp. xx-xxvii.

Compiled by: C. Plug