Page, David (DNB00)


PAGE, DAVID (1814–1879), geologist, was born on 24 Aug. 1814 at Lochgelly, Fifeshire, where his father was a mason and builder. After passing through the parochial school, he was sent, at the age of fourteen, to the university of St. Andrews, to be educated for the ministry. He obtained various academic distinctions; but the attractions of natural science proved superior to those of theology, so that when his university course was ended he supported himself by lecturing and contributing to periodical literature, acting for a time as editor of a Fifeshire newspaper. In 1843 he became ‘scientific editor’ to Messrs. W. & R. Chambers in Edinburgh, and while thus employed wrote much himself. In July 1871 he was appointed professor of geology in the Durham University College of Physical Science at Newcastle-on-Tyne. But his health already was failing, owing to the insidious advance of paralysis, and he died at Newcastle on 9 March 1879, leaving a widow, two sons, and one daughter.

Page was elected F.G.S. in 1853, was president of the Geological Society of Edinburgh in 1863 and 1865, and was a member of various other societies. In 1867 the university of St. Andrews honoured him with the degree of LL.D.

He contributed some fourteen papers to scientific periodicals, among them those of the Geological and the Physical Society of Edinburgh and the British Association. But his strength lay not so much in the direction of original investigation as in that of making science popular; for he was not only an excellent lecturer, but also the author of numerous useful text-books on geological subjects. Among the best known of them—at least twelve in number—are ‘The Earth's Crust’ (1864, Edinburgh; 6th edit. 1872), the text-books (both elementary and advanced) of ‘Geology’ and of ‘Physical Geography;’ these have gone through numerous editions, and ‘Geology for General Readers’ (1866; 12th edit. 1888). The ‘Handbook of Geological Terms’ (1859) was a useful one in its day. Page is also supposed to have aided Robert Chambers [q. v.] in writing the ‘Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation.’ He did real service in awakening an interest in geology among the people, especially in the north; for, as it was said in an obituary notice, by his clear method and graphic illustrations ‘geology lost half its terrors by losing all its dryness.’ Industrious and unwearied, with literary tastes and some poetic power, he was a good teacher, and was generally respected.

[Obituary Notices in Nature, xix. 444; Quart. Journ. Geol. Soc. 1880, Proc. p. 39; Trans. Edin. Geol. Soc. iii. p. 220.]

T. G. B.