S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Morris, Prof John (palaeontology)

Born: 19 February 1810, London, United Kingdom.
Died: 7 January 1886, London, United Kingdom.

John Morris, British geologist, was the son of John Morris, a London timber merchant. He was educated at private schools and in 1830 was apprenticed to a pharmaceutical chemist shop owned by his aunt, becoming a dispenser and manager of the shop. However, his main interest was in geology and palaeontology and he cut all links with the pharmaceutical business in 1865. Meanwhile he had been elected a Fellow of the Geological Society of London in 1845 and was professor of geology at University College, London, from 1854 to 1877. He published some 40 papers on the geology and palaeontology of Britain between 1835 and 1885. His major works were A catalogue of British fossils (London, 1843, 222p), and A monograph of the Mollusca from the Great Oolite... (with John Lycott; London, 1851-1862). He was president of the Geologists' Association during 1868-1870 and 1877-1878. Though a modest person, he was a good teacher and had an excellent memory, and was regarded as a walking encyclopaedia by his colleagues. He was awarded the Lyell medal by the Geological Society of London in 1876.

During a visit to the Cape Colony Morris found a fossil of a new species of Dicynodon at Elandsberg, near Cradock. It was named Dicynodon curvatus (now Lystrosaurus curvatus) by Sir Richard Owen* in 1876 and a cast presented to the Albany Museum, Grahamstown, that same year.

On 1 december 1870 Morres delivered a lecture on gems and precious stones before the London Institution, in which he referred to South African diamonds.

List of sources:
Cape of Good Hope. Report of the committee of the Albany Museum, 1876.

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

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

Royal Society of London. Catalogue of scientific papers [1800-1900]. London: Royal Society, 1867-1925.

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

Compiled by: C. Plug