Sharpe, Daniel (DNB00)

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SHARPE, DANIEL (1806–1856), geologist, son of Sutton Sharpe (1756–1806), brewer, by his second wife, Maria, sister of the poet, Samuel Rogers [q. v.] Samuel Sharpe [q. v.] was an elder brother. Daniel was born at Nottingham Place, Marylebone, 6 April 1806. His mother died 22 April, and his father 26 Sept. 1806. But a half-sister took the place of a parent to the child, as well as to a sister and four brothers, and his early days were spent with her at Stoke Newington. He was educated, first there, then at Mr. Cogan's school, Walthamstow. At the age of sixteen he was placed with a Portuguese merchant named Van Zeller, and about 1830 lived for a year in Portugal. Then he became partner with his elder brother, Henry Sharpe, in the same line of business, and again resided in Portugal from 1835 to 1838. Fond of natural history as a boy, he devoted himself, on joining the Geological Society in 1827, to that science. In 1832, 1839, 1848, and 1849 he read papers to this society on the geology of Portugal, which were for a considerable time almost the only authorities on that subject. The second of these contains some important remarks on the way in which the effect of an earthquake shock is modified by the constitution of the strata; and the third notices some remarkable coal-beds at Vallongo.

After his return to England in 1838, he took a special interest in palæozoic geology, reading four papers between 1842 and 1844—the first dealing with the south of Westmoreland; the second with the Bala limestone, in which he affirmed its identity with the Caradoc of Sir Roderick Impey Murchison [q. v.]; the third on the silurian rocks of south Westmoreland and north Lancashire; and the fourth on the geology of North Wales (Geol. Soc. Proc. iii. 602, iv. 10, 23, Journ. i. 147). Afterwards he wrote an important paper on the palæozoic fossils of North America collected by Sir Charles Lyell [q. v.] His work in Wales and the Lake District turned his attention to the subject of slaty cleavage, and he showed, in two important papers (Quart. Journ. Geol. Soc. iii. 74, v. 111), that this structure must be a result of pressure. He returned to the subject in 1852 (Phil. Trans. 1852, p. 445), when he discussed cleavage and foliation in southern Scotland; and in 1855, after visiting the Alps (Quart. Journ. Geol. Soc. xi. 11), on the structure of Mont Blanc and its environs. In these papers he attributed cleavage and foliation to the same cause, but fell into some errors, as was not surprising, in regard to Alpine geology. A subsequent paper (Quart. Journ. Geol. Soc. xii. 102), ‘On the last Elevation of the Alps, with notices of the heights at which the sea has left traces of its action on their sides,’ was even then contested, and would be now replaced by the words ‘there are no traces.’ But in such a difficult subject a careful and sound geologist might be, at that epoch, easily misled. Much of his work is of a high order. He also paid much attention to fossils, especially those of the neocomian and cretaceous systems. In the Royal Society's ‘Catalogue of Scientific Papers’ he appears as author of twenty-six and joint author of two papers, and was engaged at the time of his death on a memoir for the Palæontographical Society on the mollusca of the chalk (three parts published, stopping in cephalopoda).

His work as a geologist was combined with activity in business, but he was also a student of philology and archæology, and employed himself in deciphering the inscriptions brought from Lycia by Sir Charles Fellows [q. v.], Edward Forbes [q. v.], and Thomas Abel Brimage Spratt [q. v.] In debate he is described as ‘severely critical and somewhat sarcastic;’ but he was also known as a kind-hearted, benevolent man, much interested in the education of the poor. He was a Fellow of the Linnean and Zoological societies, was elected F.R.S. in 1850, became treasurer of the Geological Society in 1853, and its president early in 1856. But on 20 May of that year, while riding near Norwood, he was thrown from his horse; and he died at his lodgings in Soho Square from fracture of the skull, 31 May, being buried in the churchyard of St. John's (the parish) Church, Hampstead. He was unmarried.

[Obituary Notices in the Literary Gaz., Journal of Archæology, Science and Art, 7 June 1856, p. 351; Proc. Linnean Soc. 1857, vol. xxxi.; Proc. Roy. Soc. viii. 275; Quart. Journ. Geol. Soc. vol. xiii. Proc. p. xlv (the last contains an unusually full critical account of Sharpe's geological work. There are references to his part in the Cambrian-Silurian controversy in Geikie's Life of Murchison); a critical summary of his views on cleavage is given by J. Phillips, Brit. Assoc. Report, 1856, pp. 376–83; information from W. Arthur Sharpe, esq. (nephew).]

T. G. B.