BUCKLAND, WILLIAM (1784-1856), English divine and geologist, eldest son of the Rev. Charles Buckland, rector of Templeton and Trusham, in Devon, was born at Axminster on the 12th of March 1784. He was educated at the grammar school of Tiverton, and at Winchester, and in 1801 was elected a scholar of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, becoming B.A. in 1804. In 1809 he was elected a fellow of his college, and was admitted into holy orders. From early boyhood he had exhibited a strong taste for natural science, which was subsequently stimulated by the lectures of Dr John Kidd on mineralogy and chemistry; and his attention was especially drawn to the then infant science of geology. He also attended the lectures of Sir Christopher Pegge (1765-1822) on anatomy. He now devoted himself systematically to an examination of the geological structure of Great Britain, making excursions, and investigating the order of superposition of the strata and the characters of the organic remains which they contained. In 1813, on the resignation of Dr Kidd, he was appointed reader in mineralogy in Oxford; and the interest excited by his lectures was so great that in 1819 a readership in geology was founded and especially endowed by the treasury, Dr Buckland being the first holder of the new appointment. In 1818 Dr Buckland was elected a fellow of the Royal Society, and in 1824 and again in 1840 he was chosen president of the Geological Society of London. In 1825 he was presented by his college to the living of Stoke Charity, near Whitchurch, Hants, and in the same year he was appointed by Lord Liverpool to a canonry of the cathedral of Christ Church, Oxford, when the degree of D.D. was conferred upon him. In 1825, also, he married Mary, the eldest daughter of Mr Benjamin Morland of Sheepstead House, near Abingdon, Berks, by whose abilities and excellent judgment he was materially assisted in his literary labours. In 1832 he presided over the second meeting of the British Association, which was then held at Oxford. In 1845 he was appointed by Sir Robert Peel to the vacant deanery of Westminster, and was soon after inducted to the living of Islip, near Oxford, a preferment attached to the deanery. In 1847 he was appointed a trustee in the British Museum; and in 1848 he was awarded the Wollaston medal by the Geological Society of London. In 1849 his health began to give way under the increasing pressure of his multifarious duties; and the later years of his life were overshadowed by a serious illness, which compelled him to live in retirement. He died on the 24th of August 1856, and was buried in a spot which he had himself chosen, in Islip churchyard.
Buckland was a man many-sided in his abilities, and of a singularly wide range of attainments. Apart from his published works and memoirs in connexion with the special department of geology, and in addition to the work entailed upon him by the positions which he at different times held in the Church of England, he entered with great enthusiasm into many practical questions connected with agricultural and sanitary science, and various social and even medical problems. As a teacher he possessed powers of the highest order; and the university of Oxford is enriched by the large and valuable private collections, illustrative of geology and mineralogy, which he amassed in the course of his active life. It is, however, upon his published scientific works that Dr Buckland's great reputation is mainly based. His first great work was the well-known Reliquiae Diluvianae, or Observations on the Organic Remains contained in caves, fissures, and diluvial gravel attesting the Action of a Universal Deluge, published in 1823 (2nd ed. 1824), in which he supplemented his former observations on the remains of extinct animals discovered in the cavern of Kirkdale in Yorkshire, and expounded his views as to the bearing of these and similar cases on the Biblical account of the Deluge. Thirteen years after the publication of the Reliquiae, Dr Buckland w as called upon, in accordance with the will of the earl of Bridgewater, to write one of the series of works known as the Bridgewater Treatises. The design of these treatises was to exhibit the "power, wisdom, and goodness of God, as manifested in the Creation," and none of them was of greater value, as evinced by its vitality, than that on "Geology and Mineralogy." Originally published in 1836, it has gone through three editions, and though not a "manual" of geological science, it still possesses high value as a storehouse of geological and palaeontological facts bearing upon the particular argument which it was designed to illustrate. The third edition, issued in 1858, was edited by his son Francis T. Buckland, and is accompanied by a memoir of the author and a list of his publications.
Of Dr Buckland's numerous original contributions to the sciences of Geology and Palaeontology, the following may be mentioned: - (1) "On the Structure of the Alps and adjoining parts of the Continent, and their relation to the Secondary and Transition Rocks of England" (Annals of Phil., 1821); (2) "Account of an Assemblage of Fossil Teeth and Bones of Elephant, Rhinoceros, Hippopotamus, etc., discovered in a cave at Kirkdale in Yorkshire in the year 1821" (Phil. Trans.); (3) "On the Quartz Rock of the Lickey Hill in Worcestershire" (Trans. Geol. Soc.); (4) "On the Megalosaurus or Great Fossil Lizard of Stonesfield" (Ibid.); (5) "On the Cycadeoideae, a Family of Plants found in the Oolite Quarries of the Isle of Portland" (Ibid.); (6) "On the Discovery of a New Species of Pterodactyle in the Lias of Lyme Regis" (Ibid.); (7) "On the Discovery of Coprolites or Fossil Faeces in the Lias of Lyme Regis, and in other Formations" (Ibid.); (8) "On the Evidences of Glaciers in Scotland and the North of England" (Proc. Geol. Soc. Lond.); (9) "On the South-Western Coal District of England" (joint paper with the Rev. W.D. Conybeare, Trans. Geol. Soc. Lond.); (10) "On the Geology of the neighbourhood of Weymouth, and the adjacent parts of the Coast of Dorset" (joint paper with Sir H. De la Beche, Trans. Geol. Soc. Lond.).
With regard to the Glacial theory propounded by Agassiz, no one welcomed it with greater ardour than Buckland, and he zealously sought to trace out evidences of former glaciation in Britain. A record of the interesting discussion which took place at the Geological Society's meeting in London in November 1840, after the reading of a paper by Buckland, was printed in the Midland Naturalist, October 1883.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)