Webster, Thomas (1773-1844) (DNB00)

WEBSTER, THOMAS (1773–1844), geologist, born in the Orkneys in 1773, was educated at Aberdeen, came to London early in life, and studied architecture and agriculture. He travelled through England and France, making sketches for illustrated works and obtained some practice as an architect, the Royal Institution in Albemarle Street being built from his design. It was probably this circumstance that brought him into association with Sir Benjamin Thompson, count von Rumford [q. v.] Webster's geological insight was shown in his classical memoir ‘On the Fresh-water Formations in the Isle of Wight, with some Observations on the Strata over the Chalk in the South-east of England,’ which was published in the ‘Geological Transactions’ in 1814, and led to his association as geologist with Sir Henry Charles Englefield [q. v.] in his ‘Description of the Isle of Wight’ (London, 1816, 4to). Though Webster is only credited with eight papers in the Royal Society's catalogue (vi. 296), all dealing with the geology of the Upper Secondary and Tertiary strata of the south-east of England, and dated between 1814 and 1825, they nearly all rank as loci classici on their respective subjects. Such are the memoirs on the Reigate stone and Nutfield fuller's-earth (1821), Hordwell Cliff, the strata at Hastings, and the Purbeck and Portland beds (1824). He edited the best edition of Imison's ‘Elements of Science and Art’ (London, 1822, 8vo), and, with Mrs. Parkes, Longman's ‘Encyclopædia of Domestic Economy’ (London, 1844, 8vo), which John Claudius Loudon [q. v.] had begun. In 1826 Webster was appointed house-secretary to the Geological Society and curator of the museum; in 1840 he was granted a government pension of 50l. a year for his services to geology, and in 1841–2 he was appointed professor of geology in the university of London (University College). He died in London on 26 Dec. 1844 at London Street, Fitzroy Square, and was buried in Highgate cemetery. He left more than a hundred volumes in manuscript dealing with a wide variety of subjects. His name is associated with a rare British mineral, Websterite, and with various fossils.

[Michaud's Biographie Universelle, vol. xliv.; Gent. Mag. 1845, i. 211; Builder, 1847, v. 115; Cansick's Epitaphs in Church and Burial Grounds of St. Pancras, 1872, ii. 20; Jones's Royal Institution, 1871, passim.]

G. S. B.