Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Close, Maxwell Henry

CLOSE, MAXWELL HENRY (1822–1903), geologist, born in Merrion Square, Dublin, on 23 Oct. 1822, was eldest of eleven children of Henry Samuel Close, a partner in Balls' Bank, Dublin, by his wife Jane, daughter of Holt Waring, dean of Dromore. Sir Barry Close [q. v.] was his grand-uncle. A brother, Major George Close, was distinguished in the Abyssinian war of 1868.

After education at a school at Weymouth, where his mathematical tastes developed, he entered Trinity College, Dublin, and graduated B. A. in 1846 and proceeded M. A. in 1867. He was ordained in the Church of Ireland in 1848, and was rector of Shangton in Leicestershire from 1849 to 1857. Resigning his living owing to scruples as to the propriety of holding a benefice tinder lay patronage, he acted as curate at Waltham-on-the-Wolds until 1861. Shortly afterwards he returned to Dublin, and did occasional clerical work there. Science had already engaged his interest, and thenceforth he devoted himself to geology. He closely studied the features impressed upon Ireland by the glaciers and ice-sheets of the ice age, keenly observing phenomena during long traverses in the field, and publishing his results in the 'Journal of the Geological Society of Dublin,' in its successor the 'Journal of the Royal Geological Society of Ireland,' and in the 'Geological Magazine.' In a paper modestly entitled 'Notes on the General Glaciation of Ireland' (1867) he embodied powerful arguments for the former presence of an ice-cap over Ireland, and for the movement of ice outward towards the edges of the country from a region somewhere about Fermanagh. Another important contribution to glacial geology, written in collaboration with George Henry Kinahan [q. v. Suppl. II], was 'The General Glaciation of Iar-Connaught,' separately issued in 1872. Close's work proved beyond question that the main glacial features of Ireland must be ascribed to land-ice, though he regarded the glacial gravels with marine shells as formed by floating icebergs during a temporary submergence.

Close was president of the Royal Geological Society of Ireland in 1878 and 1879; and was treasurer of the Royal Irish Academy from 1878 until his resignation in 1903. He was for many years a member of the Council of the Royal Dublin Society. He possessed considerable archaeological as well as scientific knowledge, and quietly supported the study of the Irish language when few other scholars had entered the field. Unobtrusively he did much to promote in Ireland research and intellectual progress.

He died unmarried, in rooms long occupied by him at 39 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin, on 12 Sept. 1903. He was buried in Dean's Grange cemetery, co. Dublin.

Close published two works on physics and astronomy under assumed names: 'Ausa dynamica : Force, Impulsion, and Energy' (by John O'Toole) in 1884 (2nd edit. 1886), and 'A Few Chapters in Astronomy' (by Claudius Kennedy) in 1894.

[Abstract of Minutes, Roy. Irish Acad., 16 March 1904; Irish Naturalist, 1903, p. 301 (with bibliography and a portrait from a photograph taken in 1867); Quarterly Journ. Geol. Soc. London, lx. 1904; Proceedings, p. lxxi; personal knowledge.]

G. A. J. C.