Dictionary of Welsh Biography


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DAWKINS , Sir WILLIAM BOYD ( 1837 - 1929 ), geologist and antiquary ;

b. at Buttington , near Welshpool , 26 Dec. 1837 , the son of Richard Dawkins , vicar of Buttington . He was educated at Rossall School and Jesus College , Oxford [where he reached class II in classical moderations ( 1859 ) and class I in natural science ( 1860 )]. He became an officer of the Geological Survey of Great Britain , 1861-9 , curator of the Manchester Museum , 1869 , professor of geology at Owens College , Manchester , 1874-1909 . He was elected F.R.S. in 1867 , and honorary Fellow of Jesus College in 1882 ; he was awarded the Lyell medal of the Geological Society , 1889 , and the Prestwich medal , 1918 , and was knighted , 1919 . He m. ( 1886 ) Frances , daughter of Robert Speke Evans , and ( 1922 ) Mary Poole . He d. at Bowden, Ches. , 15 Jan. 1929 .

Dawkins was a pioneer in the study of problems relating to the antiquity of man and the possible occurrence of human implements associated with the remains of extinct animals in Europe . He began in 1866 the publication of a monograph dealing with the British Pleistocene mammals. He examined deposits on the floor of Wookey Cave in Somerset ( 1857-61 ), and showed that the cave had been occupied during Pleistocene times sometimes by hyenas and sometimes by man. He took part (with J. Magens Mello ) in excavating a cave in Cresswell Crags near Worksop and again demonstrated the contemporaneity of man with animals now extinct, and discovered a piece of bone with an incised representation of the head of a horse — the first example of the art of cave-man to be found in Britain . His work in this field was summarized in Cave Hunting , 1874 , and Early Man in Britain and his place in the Tertiary Period , 1880 .

As geological adviser to the Channel Tunnel Company in 1882 he suggested extending a boring made near Dover , in the belief that it would establish the existence of the coalfield supposed to occur beneath south-eastern England . Coal seams were reached at depths between 1,100 and 1,700 feet, and the discovery resulted in the development of the Kent coalfield.

Sources:

  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography ;
  • Proceedings of the Geological Society [of London] , 1836–46 , 1929 .

Author:

Frederick John North, O.B.E., D.Sc., F.G.S., F.S.A., F.M.A., (1889-1968), Cardiff

Published date: 1959