The Times/1895/Obituary/William Crawford Williamson

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Obituary: William Crawford Williamson  (1895) 

OBITUARY.

We have to announce the death of Dr. William Crawford Williamson, LL.D., F.R.S., formerly of Botany at the Owens College, Manchester, which occurred on Sunday at Clapham. Dr. Williamson was born on November 24, 1816, at Scarborough, and was, therefore, in his 79th year. His father, John Williamson, was an enthusiastic Yorkshire geologist and the friend of William Smith, the father of English geology. Dr. Williamson's first paper (on organic remains in the Lias of Yorkshire) was published in 1834, when he was only 18. His scientific activity has thus extended over a period of more than 60 years. He soon showed that interest in fossil plants which continued throughout his life, for he was a contributor to Lindley and Hutton's "Fossil Flora of Great Britain," completed in 1837. In 1835 he was appointed curator of the Manchester Natural History Museum, a post which he held while pursuing his medical studies. In 1842 he began to practise medicine in Manchester, where for many years he pursued his profession with great success. During the whole of his busy professional career, however, he found time for constant scientific work. His numerous earlier papers are chiefly on geological subjects, one of the most important being that on microscopic objects found in the mud of the Levant (1845), one of the first memoirs which called attention to the part played by Foraminifera in the formation of geological deposits. Dr. Williamson soon turned his attention to zoological subjects, and from 1845 to 1857 published a remarkable series of papers on the development of the scales and teeth of fishes. Dr. Williamson was one of the oldest Fellows of the Royal Society, having been elected in 1854. This distinction was won by his geological and zoological work, but his later years were above all devoted to the investigation of the structure of fossil plants, a subject of which he became an acknowledged master. Apart from numerous smaller papers (some of which date back to the beginning of his scientific career), his magnificent series of 19 memoirs on the "Organization of the Fossil Plants of the Coal-measures" ("Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 1871-93") constitutes the most important body of information on those wonderful remains. Dr. Williamson's views have often been controverted, but on the most important points he lived to see his conclusions accepted by almost all his opponents. In 1874 he received a Royal medal for his researches on fossil plants, which had then hardly more than begun. He also received the Wollaston Gold Medal of the Geological Society in 1890; he was a foreign member of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences, and the Royal Society of Sweden elected him to the place left vacant by the death of Dr. Asa Gray. Dr. Williamson's scientific work continued to the last. Apart from joint publications, he published this year a paper on the growth of Lepidodendron, which involved most laborious original investigation, During his studies of carboniferous plants, Dr. Williamson accumulated an unrivalled collection of specimens, illustrating their microscopic structure, He was appointed Professor of Natural History and Geology at Owens College, in 1851, and continued to hold the Chair of Botany until 1892, when he resigned and came to London, where his last years were spent in carrying on his original researches. By his death English Science loses one of the most distinguished naturalists of our time.