James Thomson

James Thomson was born into a working class family in Kilmarnock in 1823. Although he had little schooling, James was an avid reader and pursued his love of nature, especially geology whenever possible. He became a traveller for a firm of tea merchants which enabled him to amass a collection of rocks and fossils from all over Scotland. He was particularly interested in Carboniferous corals and soon became established as the world expert on the subject.

Thomson pioneered new classification methods depending on the internal structure of the fossil. This was only possible because of his skills at rock sectioning and engraving for illustrations. He led many geological rambles but was also a keen botanist, having studied both geology and botany at evening classes. The donation of his collection to his home town in 1892 was one of the main factors in the establishment of a free library and museum. The town council presented him with the freedom of the burgh a year before he died in 1900.

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