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John Whitehurst

(1713 - 1788)

(Born: Congelton, Cheshire, England, 10 April 1713; Died: London, England, 18 February 1788) English mechanical engineer.

Whitehurst was based in Derby, where he had his shop. In 1775 he was appointed the official "Stamper of the Legal Money-Weights" in London. He was elected F.R.S. in 1779.

Biographical references: Allibone, Dictionary of English Literature, 1859-71. BBA: I 1160, 305-323; II 1837, 193. Craven, Maxwell. John Whitehurst of Derby: clockmaker and scientist, 1713-88. Mayfield, Ashbourne, Derbyshire, England, Mayfield Books, c1996. 272 p., illus., portraits, genealogical tables. DSB: 14, 311-2. Lambrecht & Quenstedt, Catalogus, 1938: 459. Poggendorff: 2, col. 1312. Sarjeant, Geologists, 1980: 3, 2418-9 & Suppl. 1 (1986), 2, 887. Watt, Bibliotheca Britannica, 1824. WBI.

An Inquiry, 1778

1. English, 1778 [First edition].
An | Inquiry | Into The | Original State And Formation | Of The | Earth; | Deduced From Facts And The Laws Of Nature. | To Which Is Added | An Appendix, | Containing Some General Observations On The Strata In | Derbyshire. | The Mutations They Have Suffered At Different Periods Of Time. | Intended To Illustrate The Preceding Inquiries, And At | A Specimen Of Subterranous Geography. | By John Whitehurst. | [tapered rule] | London: | Printed For The Author, By J. Cooper In Drury-Lane. | MDCCLXXVIII.

4°: [16], [i]-ii, [2], [1]-199 p., 6 plates (on 4 leaves, 2 folding). Page size: 268 x 218 mm.

Contents: [2 pgs], Half title page, verso blank.; [2 pgs], Title page, verso blank.; [11 pgs], List of subscribers.; [1 pg], "Errata."; [i]-ii, "Preface."; [2 pgs], "Contents."; [1]-199, Text.; [At end], 6 plates.

Very scarce. "In pure science [Whitehurst] is important chiefly as a geological pioneer who did work in Derbyshire that was published in a well-known book ... in 1778. He established for the first time the succession of the Carboniferous strata: limestone, Millstone grit (named by him), and coal measures. Whitehurst formulated the general proposition of a worldwide orderly superposition of strata, each with its characteristic lithology and fossils. Although the proposition was somewhat vaguely imagined, he here hit on the most significant of all geological generalizations. ... He was among the first to recognize the true nature and origin of this great class of rocks, the basalts, and thus to establish the fact of volcanism in past geological times." -DSB

Whitehurst was a noted horologer and geologist. "The original design of this work, which he began to prepare while living at Derby, was to facilitate the discovery of valuable minerals beneath the earth's surface. Ultimately he advanced the idea of volcanic origin. His Inquiry, a minor classic of geology, went through three editions by 1792.

Bibliographical references: BL. DSB: 14, 311-2. Hoover Collection: no. 884. USGS Library Catalog.

2. English, 1786 [2nd edition].
An inquiry into the original state and formation of the earth; deduced from facts and the laws of nature. The 2d ed., considerably enl. ... By John Whitehurst ... London, Printed for W. Bent, 1786.

4°: [12], 283 p., frontispiece (portrait), 7 plates. Very scarce.

Facsimile reprint, 1978: An inquiry into the original state and formation of the Earth. New York, Arno Press, 1978. Reprint of the 2d ed., 1786, printed for W. Bent, London. 283 p., [8] leaves of plates (5 folding). [ISBN 0405104650].

Bibliographical references: BL. Hoover Collection: no. 886.

3. German, 1788 [German transl.].
John Whitehursts Mitglieds der Königlichen Großbritannischen Societät der Wissenschaften Untersuchungen über den ursprünglichen Zustand und die Bildung der Erde aus dem Englischen nebst Zusätzen und Anmerkungen des Uebersetzers und mit zwei Kupfertafeln. Leipzig, Weygand, 1788.

8°: [10], 288 p., 2 plates. Very scarce.

Bibliographical references: BL. LKG: XIII 133a.

4. English, 1792 [Collected works].
The Works of John Whitehurst, F.R.S. With Memoirs of his Life and Writings. London, Printed for W. Bent, 1792.

8°: [c448] p., [11] leaves of plates (8 folded), illus., portrait. Page size: 270 x 230 mm.

Very scarce. Edited by Charles Hutton [1737-1823] this volume contains the collected writings of Whitehurst together with a biography and analysis.

Contents: Memoirs of the life and writings of the author. - An inquiry into the original state and formation of the earth. - An attempt toward obtaining invariable measures of length, capacity, and weight, from the mensuration of time, independent of the mechanical operations requisite to ascertain the center of oscillation, or the true length of pendulums. - Appendix to Mr. Whitehurst's Attempt toward obtaining an invariable measure, by the editor. - Three papers, on different subjects, from the Philosophical transactions: I. Thermometrical observations at Derby. II. An account of a machine for raising water, at Oulton in Cheshire. III. Experiments on ignited substances.

Bibliographical references: BL.

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