1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Griffith, Sir Richard John

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GRIFFITH, SIR RICHARD JOHN (1784–1878), Irish geologist, was born in Dublin on the 20th of September 1784. He obtained in 1799 a commission in the Royal Irish Artillery, but a year later, when the corps was incorporated with that of England, he retired, and devoted his attention to civil engineering and mining. He studied chemistry, mineralogy and mining for two years in London under William Nicholson (editor of the Journal of Nat. Phil.), and afterwards examined the mining districts in various parts of England, Wales and Scotland. While in Cornwall he discovered ores of nickel and cobalt in material that had been rejected as worthless. He completed his studies under Robert Jameson and others at Edinburgh, was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1807, a member of the newly established Geological Society of London in 1808, and in the same year he returned to Ireland. In 1809 he was appointed by the commissioners to inquire into the nature and extent of the bogs in Ireland, and the means of improving them. In 1812 he was elected professor of geology and mining engineer to the Royal Dublin Society. During subsequent years he made many surveys and issued many reports on mineral districts in Ireland, and these formed the foundation of his first geological map of the country (1815). In 1822 Griffith became engineer of public works in Cork, Kerry and Limerick, and was occupied until 1830 in repairing old roads and in laying out many miles of new roads. Meanwhile in 1825 he was appointed to carry out the perambulation or boundary survey of Ireland, the object of which was to ascertain and mark the boundaries of every county, barony, parish and townland in preparation for the ordnance survey. This work was finished in 1844. He was also called upon to assist in preparing a bill for the general valuation of Ireland; the act was passed in 1826, and he was appointed commissioner of valuation, in which capacity he continued to act until 1868. On “Griffith's valuation” the various local and public assessments were made. His extensive investigations furnished him with ample material for improving his geological map, and the second edition was published in 1835. A third edition on a larger scale (1 in. to 4 m.) was issued under the Board of Ordnance in 1839, and it was further revised in 1855. For this great work and his other services to science he was awarded the Wollaston medal by the Geological Society in 1854. In 1850 he was made chairman of the Irish Board of Works, and in 1858 he was created a baronet. He died in Dublin on the 22nd of September 1878.

Among his many geological works the following may be mentioned: Outline of the Geology of Ireland (1838); Notice respecting the Fossils of the Mountain Limestone of Ireland, as compared with those of Great Britain, and also with the Devonian System (1842); A Synopsis of the Characters of the Carboniferous Limestone Fossils of Ireland (1844) (with F. McCoy); A Synopsis of the Silurian Fossils of Ireland (1846) (with F. McCoy). See memoirs in Quart. Journ. Geol. Soc. xxxv. 39; and Geol. Mag., 1878, p. 524, with bibliography.