Autobiography and documentable fact in the family background and religious affiliation of Archibald Geikie (1835–1924) - NMS Research Repository
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Autobiography and documentable fact in the family background and religious affiliation of Archibald Geikie (1835–1924)

3 August 2018

Abstract

In his autobiography of 1924, Archibald Geikie (1835–1924) suppressed basic information about his family and religious beliefs. Investigation reveals a more complete picture of those aspects of Geikie’s life. He was brought up in a strongly religious family, of Congregational affiliation, which he himself followed as a young man. His father was in trade as an Edinburgh perfumer, hairdresser and wig manufacturer. Amongst several apparent family scandals were a near-murder committed by his brother (which led indirectly to Geikie’s departure from Edinburgh University), and the probable suicide of his son. Geikie’s later shift to middle-ofthe-ground Anglicanism could be due to his marrying an Englishwoman, his move to England and/or the example of his patron Roderick Murchison. However, Geikie’s suppression of his earlier Congregationalism and of his family background in trade strongly suggests that the shift to Anglicanism was part of the ambitious Geikie’s career-building strategy, reinventing himself as one of the Anglicized ruling elite of the British empire. It probably also reflects the problems of establishing science as a rofession in the political and religious context of the time. It may also be linked to Geikie’s apparently conservative politics. Those findings throw further light on Geikie’s approach to autobiography.

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