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Pengelly, William

PENGELLY, WILLIAM (1812-1894), English geologist and anthropologist, was born at East Looe in Cornwall on the 12th of January 1812, the son of the captain of a small coasting vessel. He began life as a sailor, after an elementary education in his native village, but in 1828 he abandoned a seafaring life. He had developed a passion for learning, and about 1836 he removed to Torquay and started a school; in 1846 he became a private tutor in mathematics and natural science. Geology had in early years attracted his attention, but it was not until he was about 30 years of age that he began seriously to cultivate the study. In 1837 he was instrumental in the reorganization of the Torquay Mechanics' Institute, in 1844 mainly owing to his energy the Torquay Natural History Society was founded, and in 1862 he assisted in founding the Devonshire Association for the Advancement of Literature, Science and Art. Meanwhile he had been occupied in collecting fossils from many parts of Devon and Cornwall, and in 1860 the Baroness BurdettCoutts acquired and presented them to the Oxford Museum, where they form "The Pengelly Collection." Through the generosity of the same lady he was called upon to examine the lignites and clays of Bovey Tracey, in conjunction with Dr Oswald Heer, who undertook the determination of the plant-remains. Their report was published by the Royal Society (1862), and Pengelly was elected F.R.S. in 1863. He aided in the investigations of the Brixham bone-cavern from the date of its discovery in 1858, the full report being issued in 1873; and he was the main explorer of Kent's Hole, Torquay, and from 1864 for more than fifteen years he laboured with unflagging energy in examining and recording the exact position of the numerous organic remains that were disinterred during a systematic investigation of this cave, carried on with the aid of grants from the British Association. He first attended the British Association at the Cheltenham meeting in 1856, and was present at subsequent meetings (except that at Montreal in 1884) until 1889. His observations assisted in establishing the important fact of the contemporaneity of Palaeolithic man with various Pleistocene mammalia, such as the mammoth, cave-bear, cave-lion, etc. He was awarded the Lyell medal by the Geological Society of London in 1886. He died at Torquay on the 16th of March 1894.

See Memoir of William Pengelly, edited by his daughter Hester Pengelly, with a summary of his scientific work by the Rev. Professor T. G. Bonney (1897).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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