John Walter (Jack) Gregory , F.R.S., D.Sc. Lond

John Walter (Jack) Gregory , F.R.S., D.Sc. Lond

b: 27 JAN 1864
d: 1932
3 Aubrey Road
Campden Hill
London
From the James, Pyne, Dixon Family Book, 1977:

"John Walter Gregory was born on 27th January 1864, in Bow. He began exploring young. One day his younger sister Eleanor and he were sent off late for school, and reached it to find the door shut with bell and knocker out of reach. School proving impracticable for that morning, taking the other baby by the hand, he said, 'Let us travel', and together they set out for Victoria Park, a distant expedition, but successfully ended in time for the mid- day meal. The childish adventure shows promise of a strength of character combined with originality and elasticity of mind that was to be notable in his life.

Most of his school days were spent at Stepney Grammar School, Bow, the headmaster of which was the Rev. Ayrton Chaplin, his future father-in-law. When he was twelve his father died - John James Gregory, a wool merchant of London who had lost his own father when he was ten. John Walter Gregory followed in his father's footsteps in the City and laid the foundations of his unrivalled knowledge of geography at this time, by attending as a clerk at wool sales where wools from all over the world had to be noted and listed at high speed. Meanwhile he had gone on walking. In his Evolution of the Essex Rivers he wrote: 'It was in the hope of finding some interpretation of the apparently anomalous behaviour of the Ersex rivers that I first read a textbook of geology.... It was to unravel the geographical puzzles which presented themselves in Essex rambles that I became a student of geology.

With a vocation for science but employed in an office all day, he took evening classes at the Birkbeck Institution, working at home, often till the small hours of the morning, at the subjects for a London University degree in science. In 1887 he competed for an Assistantship in the Geological Department of the Natural History Museum, the science branch of the British Museum. In the face of severe competition, he was successful. He was now on the road of his choice. 'It is a great thing', he said to his son long after, 'to be able to do what you want in life.' On his father's death, the family had moved to Goulton Road, Clapton.

In the 'eighties Toynbee Hall was inaugurated in connection with St.Jude's, Whitechapel. Gregory counted it a great privilege to be admitted to the friendship of Canon and Mrs.Barnett, for whose devoted work among the poor of Whitechapel he had the greatest admiration. For several years he gave his Sunday afternoons to the Toynbee Natural History Society, helped to conduct summer camping excursions for its members - an almost unheard-of form of recreation at that date--and retained close relations with Toynbee Hall until he went to Australia. In 1904, Canon Barnett wrote: 'Dr. Gregory was intimately known to me during many years.... He made many friends among all classes who still hold him in affectionate memory and are proud when they hear of his great achievements.'

About thirty years later, he revisited the ground of a favourite Toynbee Hall excursion. In the summer of 1917, he had undertaken war work at the Air Board in London and his son joined him for a week while studying in the Mineral Gallery at the Natural History Museum. On Sunday they took a train to Holmwood in Surrey, whence they walked up to Coldharbour and on to Leith Hill. Being introduced to the surrounding Lower Greensand beds, seeing the lovely hills and woods - deserted in the stress of war--and hearing stories of the Toynbee Hall walks, was for the son like looking through a window into a treasured part of his father's bachelor days.

In 1891 he made his first journey outside Europe, to the Rocky Mountains and the Great Basin of the western United States for geological purposes. He had the company of his elder sister Anne, who was always ready with help and encouragement to further his plans.

Late next year his services were lent by the Museum to a lavishly planned expedition expecting to explore the northern part of what is now Kenya. The expedition collapsed and came to nothing, by which time he was a very sick man. W.W.A. Fitzgerald of the staff of the British East Africa Company was camped on the Tana at the time, and later said: 'He arrived with only one man after the break-up of the expedition..., and I certainly would not have been surprised if, after what he had gone through, he had returned at once to England. He then came down to examine the country between the Tana and the Sabaki (Galana] rivers, but the next day collapsed with dysentery and fever; when he recovered I expected he would have made up his mind to go straight down to Mombasa and home, but his first words were, "I think I shall start an expedition to get up to Lake Baringo"

In March 1899 he found himself at Mombasa, with greatly impaired health but with six months of leave still in hand. His resources were modest and for financial backing he had only his museum pay. 'My friends in Mombasa', he wrote,'dedared that both the time and force were insufficient' for what he meant to do. But 'I rechecked my estimates of time and cost. I could find nothing wrong with them.' Gratefully accepting invaluable local advice and disregarding gloomy local forecasts, he quickly organized his expedition and set out on March 29rd. The little caravan consisted only of forty Africans and himself; he could find no white man to join him and share the many tasks of command, which would have left him much more time to devote to science. Afterwards he used to laugh and say the journey was at any rate a record in the matter of expense. It may also have been a record in speed for a journey of this sort, for he overcame difficulties and covered the ground so fast he marched 1650 miles in five months less two days.

When his splendid headman, Omari, was asked how he had got on, he replied,'Very well, but lots of hard work, very hard work'. At a meeting of the Royal Geographical Society, Captain F.D. Lugard, later Lord Lugard, said: 'Perhaps few can appreciate more than I can (having travelled in the country myself) the pluck shown by Dr. Gregory. I think that nobody has ever been through MasailaJnd without at least 100 or 1SO armed men. Dr. Gregory, with no previous knowledge of the country, found himself left in the lurch on the coast, and determined not to abandon his enterprise and confess to failure.... He went up through the most dangerous part of the country, about the time of the rains, which meant that he must encounter large numbers of the Masai, who come down to graze their flocks at that season. He went from Naivasha, the headquarters of the Masai, into the Lailkipia country, where no one had passed before him, and from which Mr. Thomson had to fly for his life after getting to the lower slopes only of Kenya. Dr.Gregory nevertheless passed boldly through Laikipia, and turned down through Kikuyu, as dangerous a country as you could find in Africa, without any fighting, and managed to make friends with the people.'

No wonder that the first white man whose outpost he reached on return ran out in relief to welcome him. What he called out was, 'Oh, Dr. Gregory, is that you?'. Thus was the news given to the explorer that the thesis he had submitted before starting had been successful and had earned him in absentia a doctorate of science. He had explored the immense trough which he named the Great Rift Valley from south of Lake Naivasha to Lake Barjngo, studied its structure, its lava-fields, and those of the neighbouring highlands, and examined the ancient glaciers of Mount Kenya. On return to England he gave some of the scientific results in a series of papers ranging from physical geography to anthropology, and from mountaineering and glacial geology to the parasites of malaria. Meanwhile his colleagues worked out the collections of animals and plants he had brought back; new species abounded. A description of the journey forms the first half of his book The Great Rift Valley (1896), the second half dealing with geology, natural history, anthropology, and future prospects of the country.

The Oxford English Dictionary gives the first use of the term 'rift valley' as that by J.W. Gregory in the Geogmphical Journal, October 1894. There he wrote: '.... one of those valleys of subsidence with long, steep parallel walls which Professor Suess has called "Graben" The famous Yosemite valley may be taken as a well-known type of these "rift valleys" as they may conveniently be called.' He had visited the Yosemite valley of California in 1891. One result of his further bavelling in East Africa in 1919 was his book The Rift valleys and Geology of East Africa in which he mentions that 'For this type of valley I suggested the name of Rift Valley, using the term "rift" in the sense of a relatively narrow space due to subsidence between parallel fractures. Such valleys are known in many parts of the world but that of East Africa may be justly called the Great Rift Valley, as it extends from Northern Palestine to Southern Africa.'

In 1894 his mother died, the family gave up the house at Clapton and he settled in rooms in John Street, a flat in one of the pleasant old 18th century houses still remaining round about Gray's Inn. The next year he married Audrey Chaplin and set up house on Campden Hill at 3 Aubrey Road, one of the attractive little old country houses left intact on the hill. It was - for him - within convenient walking distance of the Natural History Museum.

His first published scientific work may have been a paper The Geology of Puffin Island' (off Anglesey) which he read in December 1887, the year he joined the Natural History Museum. In 1891, besides obtaining his B.Sc., he produced seven papers, one of which he submitted as a thesis for D.Sc. Thereafter his output of work never slackened. The scope of it was extraordinarily wide. As early as 1894, Professor Bonney said, 'He is a singularly all-round man; in fact, even as a geologist, I never know where to classify him. He is supposed to be a palaeontologist, but he is quite as much a petrologist.' The years made classifying him increasingly difficult.

Characteristic of his talent for using every opportunity, in the interval between the two African expeditions in 1893, while convalescing from severe illness, he had learnt to handle a native canoe, taught by 'my friend the son of the Pokomo chief'. This accomplishment was put to practical use when he packed a young wife and camping kit into a Canadian canoe, and the pair enjoyed delightful but suitably economical holidays, touring English and French waterways. In accordance with his unswerving principle of never taking an unnecessary risk, no one was allowed in the canoe unless he could swim.

In 1896 he went as naturalist with the expedition described by Sir Martin Conway, later Lord Conway of Allington, in The First Crossing of Spitsbergen. 'Gregory.... gave us the benefit of his boundless energy, his alert observation, and his wide experience.' When about to sail from Tromso, 'The ship, as the day advanced, became a mere pandemonium.... All sorts of people came to say good-bye.... The deck was crowded. Glasses clinked. Every one was in the way of every one else.... In the midst of the shindy, Gregory digested geological papers from various journals, cross-questioned any one that came handy about Spitsbergen birds or the Norwegian vocabulary, and went on piling up information generally. "You read always", said the French gentleman to him. "Yes" was the merry reply; "you see I am young and have a lot to learn':' At sea, 'Cold breezes and showers drove us to seek employment below.... He was actively employed measuring the details of four hundred specimens of a bone from the head of cod-fish. He said the pastime was excellent.' Climbing a hill,'Gregory went ahead like a steam-engine, whilst I did the puffing and blowing behind.'
When they had set up camp, 'Late at night a shot was fired from the steamer-at some bird, I suppose. Gregory, half asleep, leaped up. He thought it was the Masai coming to loot his camp.' When a message had to be carried, 'Gregory started for his thirty-mile bog-tramp to Advent Bay. He went forth in the gayest fashion, saying it was some time since he had walked fifty miles at a stretch, but he thought this thirty might be counted as an equivalent, which indeed was true.'

In 1899 he employed his vacation in a trip to the West Indies, accompanied by his wife. He visited among others the small island of Anguilla to collect bones of fossil vertebrates. There was little regular communication with the island, and he chartered a small sloop with negro master and mate navigating without even a compass.

In the autumn of 1899 Gregory decided to apply for the professorship of geology in Melbourne University, a new chair. It was a very serious decision that he had to make, especially for so devoted a son of London. Promotion at the Museum, however, appeared to be unlikely and he was considering the advisability of being called to the Bar and specializing in a scientific legal practice when the opening offered for geology in Australia. He applied and in 1900 was appointed. He had done much good work at)the Museum. Someone had been needed to work on the fossil bryozoa and corals and he had made these especially his own. He published many papers on them, on echinoides and other subjects and wrote three catalogues, standard works of reference, describing and defining the Jurassic and Cretaceous bryozoa. He was a most strenuous and rapid worker and ever generous in giving good value for payment received, so that when the Museum allowed extra leave of absence, it was assured of his overtaking his ordinary Museum work; also he was under bond to hand over everything he collected during the leave and brought home, and to this he scrupulously adhered.

The Australian long vacation between sessions is during our midwinter. Early in 1900 he left England to begin a residence in Australia which was to exceed even his cheerful expectations. The geological department had to be built from the foundations. The prime essentials of a school, however, keen and intelligent students, were not long in assembling. 'In two years' a colleague, Dr. Martin, wrote four years later,'he had made geology one of the most important and popular subjects in the University.... As Professor of Geology he took a principal part in the organization of the School of Mining Engineering. During the last two years he has, in addition to his university work, entirely re-organized the Geological Survey of Victoria for the State Government. Gregory's energy was the admiration and envy of us all, but he was such a good colleague that I don't think any of us envied him his success.'

Students and professor were soon on those terms with one another whicb Gregory was to maintain for thirty years with so many generations of undergraduates. He had a talent for friendship; he continued making new friends all his life, but never forgot an old one. With his accurate memory for faces and facts he could accost a friend or acquaintance after the lapse of years, and easily and smoothly resume intercourse. One of his old students has recorded how 'on meeting him after an absence the smile that transfigured his face gave joy and strength more than he knew.' His friends were not only numerous but of the most astonishing diversity, and from one end to the other of the social scale, from peers of the ream to 'the many swagsmen [travellers on foot in the bush] and prospectors, who while we have shared a billy of tea on the roadside or on the mountain track, have given me the benefit of their intimate acquaintance with the back blocks of Victoria.'

He was willing and eager to share his knowledge with anyone interested. His enthusiasm and example were infectious. Sometimes when response came to him of gratitude or appreciation, his intimates were amused by his look of surprise, expressed by the sudden opening to their fullest extent of his remarkable blue eyes.

The long vacation of Christmas 1901 was spent travelling and collecting with a party of students around Lake Eyre in the north of South Australia, as described in his second wcllknown book, The Dead Heart of Australia: and again the title came to be accepted as an everyday term. It may have been gathered he was a good walker. So were Australians; yet his students sang,
Here's to Prof. Greg'ry who walks at his ease,
While all his pore students go bung at the knees.

To join him on his way to or from work was to be sure of a burst of vigorous exercise. In his youth in London he reckoned on moving at the athletic speed of 5 m.p.h. Even in latter years he could outwalk and outpace most men. Visits to Geological Survey camps and other geological travels took him all over the state of Victoria, sometimes by a postman's cart, a light two-wheeled trap and single horse, doing a forty-mile stage in the day. Some settlements were served by coaches, and along the rough mountain tracks of the Gippsland forest country there were wonderful exhibitions of driving, swinging round sharp corners as the road circled the end of a narrow gorge, and the bush track offered ruts over a foot deep.

The homogeneity of Victoria, its ideas and standards of conduct and education which embraced the whole population, the friendly, family feeling, perhaps only possible where numbers are still small, and the remarkable honesty all delighted him and satisfied his strong sense of citizenship. At first he wondered whether on long geological walks to burden himself with a camera - a weight in those days - with probably a heavy bag of specimens to carry home too, or whether to take photographs early in the excursion, park the camera by the wayside, and collect it on his return. He decided to risk the camera, expecting to lose it but hoping to get good work out of it first. He always left a note on it saying it would be called for, to ensure that some well-intentioned person would not escort it as a stray to the police station. Sometimes he would notice the footprints of a passer-by who had walked up to it. It was never lost.

A study of the Mount Lyell Mines and the adjacent country was the main purpose of visits to Tasmania and resulted in a book on the mining fields, but nearly cost him his life. While rock climbing, he grazed the ball of his thumb; the scratch must have absorbed some acute infection and in a couple of days the right arm was affected to the elbow. Fortunately the mine doctors were practised surgeons and - in days before antibiotics - operated at once, while a director of the company rushed up by special train to ensure that everything possible was being done. By the time his wife could reach that remote spot in the mountains, Gregory looked like a wraith and his arm to the elbow was nothing but an elaborate system of drainage tubes, but the poison was under control and though the tubes and painful dressings con- tinued for weeks, good surgery combined with his recuperative powers and sound constitution triumphed. His arm and health made a perfect recovery and the stiffened thumb responded to massage and was also finally restored.

The long vacation of 1903-4 was spent in New Zealand, attending a meeting of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science and travelhng the length of the Islands from the Bluffs to Auckland. An excursion was made to the west coast of the South Island, where the natural scenery is wonderful and unique; where tree ferns and tropical vegetation flourish within a mile or two of the glaciers and scarlet rata contrasts with the blue crevasses and white snows of the mountains. Early in 1904 he began his fifth university session at Melbourne in the full swing of work and enjoyment of what he delightedly described as 'a geologically unexplored continent beginning at the back garden'. Yet he did not mean to spend the rest of his life at the antipodes; the call of London was too strong. Almost incessantly he missed the great scientific libraries: the Royal Society-of which he had been elected a Fellow in 1901; the reading room of the British Museum; the Rqyal Geographical Society with its maps and beautifully lit map-room; the Patent Office Library and many other havens of learning. Moreover, the hot dry climate and the dust-storms were now fast breaking down his wife's health and she was continually and increasingly ill. Return home had become imperative.

At this time, a Chair of Geology was founded in Glasgow University. A friend expressed confidence that Gregory's reputation was high enough for him to be able to count on the appointment if he chose to apply. His printed application is dated 17th May, and he was appointed. He stipulated that he should not begin till November, to let him finish the 1904 session in Melboume and give that university time to appoint a successor for its next session. Though he was a resident Australian for less than five years, he always retained his feeling for country and people and his friendships with them; some 24 years later he was still corresponding with some of them about developments in their problems

In Glasgow he found himself engaged on almost a repeat of the Melbourne experiences. The geology class began in 1904 with twelve students, and by the time he retired in 1929 it had increased to over four hundred. An obituary in the Journal of the West of Scotland Agricultural College - of which college he was a governor - said,
Professor Gregory speedily established himself in Scotland as a great teacher. administrator, and researcher.... His genial and informal manner, his fascinating lecturing, his complete ·accessibility and readiness to discuss any subject at my time, endeared him to a generation of students. Each successive geology class fed under his spell as its members gradually realized and came to reverence the charm and versatility, vast range of interests, and world-wide reputation of the professor. Under his guidance and inspiration a G1asgow geological school grew up, the fame of which was spread by its research work, and by the young men trained in it, who went forth on their professional errands into all the earth, preaching with enthusiasm the geological gospel according to Gregory.....

His son, to his lasting regret, took the Part 1 class while his father was in India. He has a vivid recollection, after the Professor's return, of going into his room and hearing the sounds of him and the Part 1 class in harmony. The clear voice flowing smoothly on was accompanied by the little noises of a large class kept happily on the stretch, intently following and note-taking, quickly responding to the lecturer with here a ripple of amusement and there a note of appreciation or surprise, exploding once into a gale of laughter.

The Part 2 lectures were magical, the highlight of a university course. The most exciting part of them was the section on mining geology. As his demonstrator in mineralogy, Miss Neilson, said, 'You wanted to get every word down '. It described different types of mineral deposit all over the world, the elucidation of how the deposit had been formed, and how that knowledge bore on mining the deposit. This was told by a man who had visited most of the deposits he described, who had explored many of them geologically and had at least contributed to understanding them and could tell you out of his head where to turn up the current explanation of the field. All this was enlivened by touches of local colour, as noticed by a visitor in the great days of that field, yet retaining a grip on the classification of the world-wide occurrence of the mineral. One returned reluctantly from these enthralling scientific adventures to the murk of 6.30 p.m. on a Scottish night.

On coming home from his two-year absence in India, Gregory found the Part 1 class enlarged in size and relaxed in discipline, but as the term advanced peace was restored. His son, having seen how rough a Glasgow class can be on even a first-rate lecturer, asked his father however he had overcome the disorder. After the usual short pause to think out the answer, Gregory replied: 'I think they came to realize I didn't like it'. No doubt this was an accurate diagnosis. One of his students wrote: 'As a teacher he was supreme and students thronged to hear him.'

The part of the classes to stand out most in the minds of Gregory's students was probably the field work. It was different from the run of university work. First, waiting at the rendezvous for the Professor to arrive. If he came in trousers, an easy walk lay ahead. If he had on knee breeches, you would have to exert yourself. But if he was wearing puttees, the storm-cones were hoisted and you knew it would be an arduous day, ankle-deep in the wintry'Land of the mountain and the flood, Land of brown heath and shaggy wood', while you were led among striking geological sections and rocks and structures and learnt something of how to interpret what lay below from what you could see on the surface.

Gregory extended his own walking powers by frequent use of a bicycle, often taking it in a train to save time in dull areas. He cruised on the Scottish west coast in a 27-foot cutter, exploring it as one could do in no other way, seeing not only the geology but the beauty of otherwise inaccessible islands and straits, inlets and lochs.

He had an extreme liking and tolerance for his fellow men and interest in them. He was much more inclined to talk on their subjects than on his own because he really was more interested in.what they had to tell him than wishful to speak of his own doings or interests. Many even of his friends therefore had a sutprisingly partial knowledge of his achievements and occupations. Although he was a man of strong and enduring affections, both for friends and family, none but his intimates would have divined the depth of his feeling for his domestic circle or fondness for his home. An acquaintance once remarked that he might almost have been a Moslem trained in a rigid etiquette of never speaking of ladies outside their own family circle. His daughter was sometimes amused to be greeted with surprise by some friend who thought he knew Gregory but was quite unaware of his owning a family. It war an in- stance of his habit of keeping his interests in watertight compartments.

Nearly everyone has some mental blind spot; his was inability to speak foreign tongues. He could read the geological literature of many languages but a colloquial knowledge to ex- tend his communications with foreigners, particularly French and German scientific colleagues, would have given him very great pleasure. He had, however, the talent of communicating with his fellow men without articulate speech or of attaining his object without it. He often gave expert evidence. The expert scientific witness is employed to elucidate the truth and must adhere to his own settled convictions. When asked to give evidence Gregory always studied the whole affair most carefully, and not unless he was convinced that the side approaching him was geologically in the right did he agree; this, with his great stored knowledge of geology, acute reasoning powers, unusually fine memory, and unshakable nerve, made him stand like a rock in court. His first case turned on whether china clay is a mineral. Though a young man, he was asked to give evidence because most of the recognized authorities were appearing for the other side. In the face of that formidable opposition, he enabled his side to prove in court that china clay owes its character to deep-seated activity, not to surface weathering like most clays, and therefore, for the purposes of a disputed agreement, it war a mineral. The late Lord Findlay once expressed the opinion to a colleague that experts were useless to a case in court,'except', he added,'one of 'em,-a Scotchman from Glasgow called Gregory'.

He looked on the main function of science as ministering to man's welfare and happiness. Great as was his enthusiasm for science and his love of it, his fundamental interest was humanity, hence the interest in applied science and the geographical studies. He vigorously defended and explained the White Australia policy. He was chosen head of expeditions to Cyrenaica (1908) and Southern Angola (1912) to report on their suitability for Jewish colonization. Two of his books deal with inter-racial and emigration problems. He served on the Calcutta University Commission of 1917-19, and on the way home revisited Kenya to report on water supply. Other journeys abounded, adding to his power as a teacher. His neverceasing activity produced twenty books and over three hundred papers. His interest in the structure of the earth led him in 1922 through Burma to south-western China, accompanied by his son, and in 1932 to the Andes on his last expedition. In rapids on the river Urubamba in Peru, a canoe overturned & he was drowned.

Many scientific honours had been bestowed on him-prizes, medals, honorary memberships, degrees, honorary and otherwise, presidencies. He was proudest of all, he once said, of the unofficial title conferred on him by the miners of Ballarat, 'Our Professor'. 'By his travels', his obituary for the Royal Society said, "and by the regional and tectonic studies connected with them, Gregory did much to counteract the parochial tendency of British geology during the past quarter-century: no other British geologist achieved such a world-wide reputation, or had such a large circle of friends in every continent.... Viewing his multifarious achievements in the light of their difficulty of accomplishment, we realize that his apparent diffidence of manner concealed a tenacity of purpose and hid a mind to which fear was unknown."

END
THE TIMES, June 14th 1932

Obituary
Professor J W Gregory, Geologist and Explorer

Professor J. W. Gregory, F. R. S., the distinguished geologist and explorer, is reported in a wireless message from Iquitos, transmitted by Reuter from Lima, to have been drowned in the Urubamba river near Megantomi Falls in Northern Peru. He was leading an expedition to study volcanic movements. He was 68.

As a traveller and explorer whose main interests were geology and natural history Professor Gregory held high rank. He had carried out investigations in many parts of the world: in North America, in the Rockies, in Australia, in Tibet, and in the Antarctic; but he will be best remembered for his work in Africa, where he had travelled in Cyrenaica -- when it was barely accessible to the scientist -- in the interior of Angola, and, especially, in East Africa. It was his investigation that first clearly made known the nature of the Rift valleys of that part of the continent. His work in that connection has been the foundation of all subsequent geological exploration in Eastern Africa, and of all his many books those on the great rift valleys are probably the best known.

Gregory was the son of a wool merchant of Bermondsey and Sittingborne, and from Stepney Grammar School went into the business at the age of 15 and continued in it for eight years, during which he travelled in Russia. In 1887 he was appointed an assistant in the Geological Department of the British Museum, a post which he held till 1900. Obtaining leave of absence, he travelled for geological purposes in the Rocky Mountains and in 1892-93 in East Africa. He organised single-handed an expedition which he described in "The Great Rift Valley: a Narrative of a Journey to Mount Kenya and Lake Baringo," published in 1896. In 1921 he published "The Rift Valleys and Geology of East Africa," the result of 25 years study and another visit to East Africa in 1919. On the first journey he came in touch with Sir Harry Johnston, Lord Lugard, and other explorers.

As naturalist to Sir Martin Conway’s expedition across Spitzbergen in 1896 he did excellent work; in 1900-01 he was director of the civilian scientific staff of the Antarctic expedition, while in Australia he was well-known as head of the Lake Eyre expedition of 1901-02. He was appointed Professor of Geology in the University of Melbourne in 1900, and held the Chair for four years, being for part of the time Director of the Geological Survey, Mines Department, Victoria. In the 1908 he undertook a journey in Cyrenaica to report on its suitability as a home for Zionists, and he showed himself there are to be as keen an antiquary as he was geologist and naturalist. In 1904 he was appointed Professor of Geology in the University of Glasgow, and held that post till 1929. In 1912 he went on an expedition to Angola, and with his son Christopher to the Alps of Chinese Tibet in 1922, which proved of great scientific value.

Professor Gregory left this country last January at the head of a scientific expedition to explore and study the volcanic and earthquakes centres of the Andes. The expedition numbered five, and included Miss McKinnon Wood, daughter of the late Mr T. McKinnon Wood, former Secretary for Scotland, who went as fossil collector. They arrived in Lima at the beginning of February. They planned to cross one of the lesser-known belts of the Andes, an area rising abruptly from the Pacific to a height of 50,000 feet, one of the highest mountain fronts on earth. The journey was to be continued by canoe along one of the headstreams of the Amazon. The Peruvian Government appointed two geologists to accompany Professor Gregory, and they also instructed him to prepare a detailed report on the results obtained. Professor Gregory was one of the foremost authorities on earthquakes in this country. Before leaving in January he said that the Andes appeared to have significant correspondence in date with the main stages of the formation of the Great Rift Valley, which he discovered 39 years ago. He hoped to examine the structure of parts of the Peruvian coasts and the geology of the desert belt between the coasts and Western front of the Andes. The party hoped also to visit the Inca ruins and to travel across Brazil. They hoped to return to this country next month.

Academic and scientific honours came to Gregory. He was elected F. R. S. in 1901 and was D. Sc. of London and Melbourne, LL.D of Liverpool, past president of the Geological Society of London, which gave him the Bigsby medal, president of the geological section of the British Association in 1907, and of the geographical section in 1924, again president of the geological section of the British Association at the centenary meeting last year, Victoria medallist of the Royal Geographical Society, gold medallist of the Scottish Geographical Society, and hon. member and medallist of various Dominion and foreign learned societies. He was president of the Scottish ski club in 1910-13, and was also fond of canoeing and yachting. In 1917 he was appointed a member of the Calcutta University Commission, and was joint author of the minority report. He was an excellent lecturer, and even the non-scientific reader finds his travel books full of good things. He had closely studied the problems of human migration and the alleged "drying-up" of the earth. He married Audrey, daughter of the Reverend Ayrton Chaplin, of Chelmsford, and had a son and a daughter.


Imperial and Foreign News (which paper is unknown - probably The Times)

An Ill-fated Expedition

Prof. Gregory's Death
From our correspondent. LIMA, July 18 (By Air Mail)

Details of the disaster which overtook the Gregory Geological Expedition in Peru on June 2, when Professor J. W. Gregory lost his life in the rapids of the Pongo de Mainique while descending the Urubamba River, have now become known. During the past week Miss M. McKinnon Wood, daughter of the late Mr Thomas McKinnon Wood and a member of the expedition, arrived in Lima and was able to supplement the little which had been previously known of the occurrence. The object of Professor Gregory's visit to Peru was to make a reconnaissance of the main Andean range and to determine the age at which it rose from the bed of the ocean, thus completing a study of a lifetime of the geological history of the Pacific Ocean. He was accompanied by Miss M. McKinnon Wood, of Cambridge University and specialist in geology, and by Mr A. V. Coverley-Price, of the British Diplomatic Service. M. Mariano C. Tarnawiecki, a Pole widely known in Peru as mine operator, explorer, and scientist, also accompanied the expedition by the courtesy of the Peruvian Government, with instructions to afford the members of the party every facility in their work.

Arriving in Lima at the end of January, the expedition carried out a series of important researches in the district of Ica and Nazea. Incidentally the presence of whale bones in the Ocucaje Valley and also near Ica was proved. From Nazca the party travelled by meal back to Cuzco via Andahuaylas. From a geological point of view much of great scientific interest was encountered along the trail. After a short stay in Cuzco, the expedition proceeded from Machu-Pichu by mule, via Huaillabambe and Ollantaitambo, to Rosalina, the point on the Urubamba River at which canoe navigation becomes possible. Here the party had to wait for three weeks while canoes were obtained. In the days of the rubber "boom," states Miss McKinnon Wood, a good overland trail used to connect Rosalina with the Pongo de Mainique, the last and worst of the chain of rapids which renders navigation on this section of the river so dangerous, but it has since being oblliterated by landslides. From Rosalina M. Tarnawiecki went by land to Mulanquiato in search of canoes, taking six days to cover the distance, the same distance being covered later by canoe in three days. From Mulanquiato the expedition proceeded down river in two canoes, reaching the mouth of the Pongo de Mainique in one-day. Here the night of June 1 was spent.

On the following day the luggage was carried to a point immediately above the Megantone Falls, the last and swiftest of the rapids, while the two canoes were lowered by rope. No portage over the last section was possible owing to the perpendicular character of the rocks. Moreover, recent landslides had narrowed the bed of the river still further and dangerously increased the volume of the current. In the circumstances the party had no option but to embark with their luggage and steer the best course possible through the broken water.

The disaster

The first canoe, with M.Tarnawiecki and a crew of six Machiganga Indians, shot through into safety, though the canoe was badly waterlogged in transit. The second canoe, containing Professor Gregory, Miss McKinnon Wood, and Mr Coverley-Price, capsized. Miss McKinnon Wood, aided by the current, managed to swim ashore, as did also Mr Coverley-Price. Professor Gregory was seen by his companions clinging to the canoe, which was being swept down-stream. Then he was apparently caught in the back eddy of one of the two whirlpools which generally (although not constantly) are to be found at this point. He was swept backwards, upstream, and finally disappeared from sight in the centre of the whirlpool.

His body was recovered three days later and buried on the left bank of the river below the Pongo. Bearings were taken of the site of the grave. Of the fruits of the expedition much valuable material was lost. Bags containing geological specimens sank in the stream. The rest of the luggage, packed in rubber bags, floated to the surface and was recovered, although many of the more delicate scientific instruments, photographic material, and notes were irretrievably damaged by water. After burying the body of their leader, the survivors continued their journey down the Urubamba to its mouth. Thence Mr Coverley-Price left the country to join as rapidly as possible the staff of the British Legation in Bucharest, while Miss McKinnon Wood and M. Tarnawiecki travelled by air to San Ramon and thence by road and rail to Lima.

END

J W Gregory. Scientist. Explorer. Teacher.

This miniature memoir of my father is based on an unpublished “biographical sketch” of him by my mother – C J G

Dukes Orchard
Spring Elms Lane
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Printed by A E Simmons Ltd, 47 Baddow Road, Chelmsford.


JOHN WALTER GREGORY was born on January 27th 1864, in Bow. He began exploring early. One day his younger sister Eleanor and he were sent off late for school, and reached it to find the door shut with bell and knocker out of reach. School proving impracticable for that morning, taking the other baby by the hand, he said, “Let us travel,” and together they set out for Victoria Park, a distant expedition, but possible to determined intelligence and sturdy legs. It was successfully ended in time for the mid-day meal, causing their elders no anxiety. The childish adventure shows promise of strength of character combined with originality and elasticity of mind that was to be notable in his life.

Most of his schooldays were spent at Stepney Gammar School, Bow, the headmaster of which was the Rev. Ayrton Chaplin, his future father-in-law. When he was twelve his father died - John James Gregory, a wool merchant of London. The tie between father and son must have been a close one; through life Gregory quoted his father and regretted his early loss. A favourite saying of both was, "Better to wear out than rust out." John Walter followed in his father's footsteps in the City, and at this time laid the foundation of his unrivalled knowledge of geography by attending as a clerk at wool sales, where wools from all over the world had to be noted and listed at high speed.

Meanwhile he had gone on walking. In his Evolution of the Essex Rivers he wrote: "It was in the hope of finding some interpretation of the apparently anomalous behaviour of the Essex rivers that I first read a textbook of geology... It was to unravel the geographical puzzles which presented themselves in Essex rambles that I became a student of geology."

With a vocation for science but employed in an office all day, he took evening classes at the Birkbeck Institute, working at home, often till the small hours of the morning, for a London University degree in science. In 1887 he competed for an Assistantship in the Geological Department of the Natural History Museum, the science branch of the British Museum. In the face of severe competition, he was successful. He was now on the road of his choice. "It is a great thing," he said to his son long after, "to be able to do what you want in life."

His first published scientific work may have been a paper The Geology of Puffin Island (off Anglesey) which he read to Liverpool Biological Society in December 1887. In 1891, besides obtaining his B.Sc. he produced seven papers; the one entitled The Maltese Fossil Echinoidea and their Evidence on the Correlation of the Maltese Rocks he submitted as a thesis for D.Sc. Thereafter his output of work never slackened. The scope of it was extraordinarily wide. As early as 1894, Professor Bonney said, “He is a singularly all-round man; in fact even as a geologist, I never know where to classify him. He is supposed to be a paleontologist, but he is just as much a petrologist.”1 The years made classifying him increasingly difficult.

On his father's death, the family had moved from Bow to Goulton Road, Clapton. In the 'eighties, Toynbee Hall was inaugurated in connection with St Jude's, Whitechapel. Gregory counted it a great privilege to be admitted to the friendship of Canon and Mrs Barnett, for whose devoted work among the poor of Whitechapel he had the greatest admiration. For several years he gave his Sunday afternoons to the Toynbee Natural History Society, helped to conduct summer camping excursions for its members - an almost unheard-of form of recreation at that date -- and retained close relations with Toynbee Hall until he went to Australia. In 1904, Canon Barnett wrote: "Dr Gregory was intimately known to me during many years... He is both able and humble, persistent in all his work, and very tactful, conscientious, and honourable, most agreeable as a fellow-worker, and generous of his powers. He made many friends among all classes, who still hold him in affectionate memory and are proud when they hear of his great achievements."

About thirty years later, he revisited the ground of a favourite Toynbee Hall excursion. In the summer of 1917, he had undertaken war work at the Air Board in London, lodging in the quiet of Torrington Square, and there his son had joined him for a week while studying in the Mineral Gallery at the Natural History Museum and meeting several of his father's old colleagues. For Sunday, Gregory offered his son a visit to the National Physical Laboratory or to Leith Hill, and his son chose Leith Hill. The train put them down at Holmwood, whence they walked up to Coldharbour and on to Leith Hill, the 965 ft height of which is added to by the tower. Being introduced to the surrounding Lower Greensand beds, seeing the lovely hills and woods - deserted in the stress of war - and hearing stories of the Toynbee Hall walks was for the son like looking through a window into a treasured part of his father's bachelor days.


In 1891 he made his first journey outside Europe, to the Rocky Mountains and the Great Basin of the Western United States for geological purposes. He had the company of his elder sister Anne who was always ready with help and encouragement to further his plans.

Late next year his services were lent by the Museum to a lavishly planned expedition expecting to explore the northern part of what is now Kenya. The expedition collapsed and came to nothing, by which time he was a very sick man. W W A Fitzgerald of the staff of the British East Africa Company was camped on the Tana at the time, and later said: “He arrived with only one man after the break-up of the expedition... and I certainly would not have been surprised if, after what he had gone through, he had returned at once to England. He then came down to examine the country between the Tana and the Sabaki [Galana] rivers, but the next day collapsed with dysentery and fever; when he recovered I expected he would have made up his mind to go straight down to Mombasa and home, but his first words were, ‘I think I shall start an expedition to get up to Lake Baringo.' "2

In March 1893 he found himself at Mombasa, with greatly impaired health but with six months of leave still in hand. For financial backing he had only his own modest resources and his museum pay• "My friends in Mombasa," he wrote, "declared that both the time and force were insufficient” for what he meant to do. But "I re-checked my estimates of time and cost. I could find nothing wrong with them." Gratefully accepting invaluable local advice and disregarding gloomy local forecasts he quickly organised his expedition and set out on March 23rd. The little caravan consisted only of forty Africans and himself; he could find no white man to join him and share the many tasks of command, which would have left him much more time to devote to science. Afterwards he used to laugh and say the journey was at any rate a record in the matter of expense.

It may also have been a record in speed for a journey of this sort, for he overcame difficulties and covered the ground so fast he marched 1650 miles in six months less two days. When his splendid headman, Omari, was asked how he had got on, he replied, "Very well, but lots of hard work, very hard work." At a meeting of the Royal Geographical Society, Captain F D Lugard, later Lord Lugard, said: "Perhaps few can appreciate more than I can (having travelled the country myself) the pluck shown by Dr. Gregory. I think that nobody has ever been through Masailand without at least 100 or 130 armed men. Dr Gregory, with no previous knowledge of the country, found himself left in the lurch on the coast, and determined not to abandon his enterprise and confess to failure ... He went up through the most dangerous part of the country, about the time of the rains, which meant that he must encounter large numbers of the Masai, who come down to graze their flocks at that season. He went from Naivasha, the headquarters of the Masai, into the Laikipia country, where no one had passed before him, and from which Mr. Thomson had to fly for his life after getting to the lower slopes only of Kenya. Dr. Gregory nevertheless passed boldly through Laikipia, and turned down through Kikuyu, as dangerous a country as you could find in Africa, without any fighting, and managed to make friends with the people."3

No wonder that the first white man whose outpost he reached on return ran out in relief to welcome him, calling out, "Oh, Dr. Gregory, is that you?" Thus was the news given to the explorer that his thesis had been successful and had earned him in absentia a doctorate of science.

He had explored the immense trough which he named the Great Rift Valley from south of Lake Naivasha to Lake Baringo, studied its structure, its lava-fields, and those of the neighbouring highlands, and examined the ancient glaciers of Mount Kenya of which he came near to making the first ascent. On return to England he gave some of the scientific results in a series of papers ranging from physical geography to anthropology, and from mountaineering and glacial geology to the parasites of malaria. Meanwhile his colleagues worked out the collections of animals and plants he had brought back; new species abounded. A description of the journey forms the first half of his book The Great Rift Yalley (1896), the second half dealing with geology, natural history, anthropology, and future prospects of the country. In 1968 it was reprinted in a "Library of African Studies".

The Oxford English Dictionary gives the first use of the term "rift valley" as that by J W Gregory in the Geographical Journal, 1894. There he wrote: “…. one of those valleys of subsidence with long, steep, parallel walls which Professor Suess has called 'Graben'. The famous Yosemite valley may be taken as a well-known type of these 'rift valleys,' as they may conveniently be called." He had visited the Yosemite valley of Californa in 1891. One result of his further travelling in East Africa, in 1919, was his book The Rift Valleys and Geology of East Africa, on page 18 of which he mentions that "For this type of valley I suggested the name of Rift Valley, using the term 'rift' in the sense of a relatively narrow space due to subsidence between parallel fractures. Such valleys are known in many parts of the world, but that of East Africa may be justly called the Great Rift Valley, as it extends from Northern Palestine to Southern Africa." Not long after his death, his widow wrote; "In choosing the geological feature of the 'rift valley' for the title of the book [of l896], he had no expectation of giving a name to a considerable tract of the earth's surface. The name however caught on, and was adopted so quickly and universally that even those who remember the circumstances almost feel it has been always so named, or at least dates back to a ripe antiquity."

After his mother died in 1894, and after both his sisters had married, the family gave up the house at Clapton and he settled in rooms in John Street, a flat in one of the pleasant old eighteenth century houses still remaining round about Gray's Inn. When one of his sisters visited him here, the landlady was thankful to ask her help; every time she asked her lodger what he would like for his evening meal, he replied "mutton chop': The sister explained that meant, "Give me what you like and don't bother me about food': The landlady acted accordingly, to mutual satisfaction.

In 1895 he married Audrey Chaplin and set up house on Campden Hill at 3 Aubrey Road, one of the attractive little old country houses left intact on their hill, surrounded by the encroaching tide of London building. It was - for him -- within convenient walking distance of the Natural History Museum.

Characteristic of his talent for using every opportunity, in the interval between the two African expeditions in 1893, while convalescing from severe illness, he had learnt to handle a native canoe, taught by "my friend the son of the Pokomo chief.” This accomplishment was put to practical use when he packed a young wife and camping kit into a Canadian canoe, and the pair enjoyed delightful but suitably economical holidays, touring English and French waterways. In accordance with his unswerving principle of never taking an unnecessary risk, a rule always obtained in the family that no one was allowed in the canoe unless they could swim.

In 1896 he went as naturalist with the expedition described by Sir Martin Conway, later Lord Conway of Allington, in The First Crossing of Spitsbergen. "How valuable was the companionship of the author of the Great Rift Valley of Africa, how useful was his experience, how helpful his energy, readers of that fascinating description of a most plucky and fruitful journey will readily appreciate." When about to sail from Tromsö, "The ship, as the day advanced, became a mere pandemonium ... All sorts of people came to say good-bye ... The deck was crowded. Glasses clinked. Every one was in the way of everyone else ... In the midst of the shindy, Gregory digested geological papers from various journals, cross-questioned anyone that came handy about Spitsbergen birds or the Norwegian vocabulary, and went on piling up information generally. 'You read always,' said the French gentleman to. him. 'Yes,' was the merry reply;'you see I am young and have a lot to learn.' " At sea, "Cold breezes and showers drove us to seek employment below … He was actively employed measuring the details of four hundred specimens of a bone from the head of cod-fish. He said the pastime was excellent." Climbing a hill, "Gregory went ahead like a steam-engine, whilst I did the puffing and blowing behind." When they had set up camp, "Late at night a shot was fired from the steamer -- at some bird, I suppose. Gregory, half asleep, leaped up. He thought it was the Masai coming to loot his camp." When a message had to be carried, "Gregory started for his thirty-mile bog-tramp to Advent Bay. He went forth in the gayest fashion, saying it was some time since he had walked fifty miles at a stretch, but he thought this thirty might be counted as an equivalent, which indeed was true."5

He retained this singular indifference to his surroundings; he could work with the clatter of a typewriter in his room, or in a crowded train or bus. A chair and a steady table for writing and "What more could anyone want?", he used to say. He was one of those men who are habitually well served, and later he was sometimes surprised to find a table had materialized in unlikely surroundings, provided by someone's kindly thought "for the Professor's papers”. He loathed one noise, then common -- whistling; and he was fidgeted by the idle tapping of a foot on the door.

Travelling with him, though an arduous business, was something of a revelation, both of the possibilities of travel and adventure, and of his own character. His joyous zest combined with knowledge, and his unselfishness over both small and great matters made him an ideal travelling companion; indeed, companions had to be on the alert, to ensure that he was not defrauding himself if supplies were short or comforts lacking.

In 1899 he employed his vacation in a trip to the West Indies, accompanied by his wife. He visited among others the small island of Anguilla to collect bones of fossil vertebrates. There was little regular communication with the island, and he chartered a small sloop with negro master and mate, excellent boatmen but navigating entirely by rule of thumb, without even a compass. The course was from Antigua to Barbuda, where a day was spent seeing the island, sheltering during the midday heat in an old shooting lodge, unfurnished but built of stone and exquisitely cool. A start for Anguilla was made in the evening; but the ship's master, only knowing his sea road direct from Antigua to Anguilla, instead of proceeding straight to Anguilla retraced the journey of the day before, and it was not till he had picked up the lights of St. John's, Antigua, that he set a course for Anguilla. When the tropic sun rose there was a very small sloop among very large waves, and no prospect of port. The ship was so small its miniature deck was only just wide enough to plant a deck chair across it. Once a white-crested wave broke with a rush of green water over the canted deck. Gregory's chair was swept from under him, and only his own presence of mind and the few inches of the ship's combing averted an incident of man overboard. Towards evening the island came into view, but the wind failed, and whenever the steersman was asked how much further to harbour his invariable reply was "two-and-a-half tacks': Actually the tacks were countless, and the passengers finally landed well after dark, sun-scorched, damp, and excessively hungry; but of one mind that the ardours and discomforts of the voyage had been more than compensated for by the wonderful colour and lighting effects, both day and night, on that tropic sea of enchantment viewed almost at its own level from the deck of the sloop, a revelation after the same sea viewed from the cliff-like height of ocean-going steamers, and the superior exhilaration in the buoyancy of that cockleshell, the sloop.

In the autumn of 1899 Gregory decided to apply for the Professorship of Geology and Mineralogy in Melbourne University, a new chair. It was a very serious decision that he had to make, especially for so devoted a son of London. Promotion at the Museum, however, appeared to be unlikely, and he was considering the advisability of being called to the bar and specialising in a scientific legal practice when the opening offered for geology in Australia; he applied and was appointed. He always retained the warmest feelings for the Museum which had been his introduction to a scientific career and for his colleagues there; and on visits to London he could always count on the use of a writing table and the freedom of the library for consulting works on scientific subjects.

He had done much good work at the Museum. Someone had been needed to work on the fossil bryozoa and corals, and he had made these especially his own. He published many papers on them, on echinoidea and other subjects, and wrote three catalogues, standard works of reference, describing and defining the Jurassic and Cretaceous bryozoa. He was a most strenuous and rapid worker, and ever generous in giving good value for payment received, so that when the Museum allowed extra leave of absence it was assured of his overtaking his ordinary Museum work; also he was under bond to hand over everything he collected during the leave and brought home, and to this he scrupulously adhered.

The Australian long vacation between sessions is during our midwinter. Early in 1900 he left England to begin a residence in Australia which was to exceed even his cheerful expectations. There is perhaps no gratification in human life greater than a young man's first independent command, when that man has talent and character, confidence in himself, and the knowledge that he can hold down the job.

The Geological Department had to be built from the foundation; laboratories and equipment of any kind were lacking. The prime essentials of a school, however, keen and intelligent students, were not long in assembling. Lectures and laboratory work were organized, and fortnightly excursions for field-work instituted. It sets those days back into the perspective of history to recall talk in the University of chaperons for the lady students on the excursions. Such speculations would never have occurred to Gregory, experienced in Toynbee excursions, while Mrs. Gregory thought and roundly asserted that the Professor was perfectly competent to chaperon any number of young women. The subject faded out, and excursions began and continued on modern lines. "In two years," a colleague, Dr. Martin, wrote four years later, "he had made geology one of the most important and popular subjects in the University… As Professor of Geology he took a principal part in the organisation of the School of Mining Engineering. During the last two years he has, in addition to his university work, entirely re-organised the Geological Survey of Victoria for the State Government. Gregory's energy was the admiration and envy of us all, but he was such a good colleague that I don't think any of us envied him his success."

Students and professor were soon on those terms with one another which Gregory was to maintain for thirty years with many generations of undergraduates. He had an accessibility of mind and serenity of temper, valuable in every walk of life but of special value in a teacher. He had a talent for friendship; he continued making new friends all his life, but never forgot an old one. With his accurate memory for faces and facts he could accost a friend or acquaintance after the lapse of years, and easily and smoothly resume intercourse. One of his old students has recorded how, "On meeting him after an absence the smile that transfigured his face gave joy and strength more than he knew." His friends were not only numerous but of the most astonishing diversity, white, black and yellow, from one end to the other of the social scale, from peers of the realm to "the many swagsmen [travellers on foot in the bush with their roll or "swag" on their shoulder] and prospectors, who while we have shared a billy of tea on the roadside or on the mountain track, have given me the benefit of their intimate acquaintance with the back blocks of Victoria."6

A distinguished friend once told his gratified wife that her husband was "that uncommon person, a man who really knows his job." Besides being willing and eager to share his wide and thorough knowledge of geology with anyone interested, he implanted almost unconsciously something of his own enthusiasm for knowledge, for truth, for hard -- even gruelling hard -- work, and for that team work which he practised and promoted all his life in the daily work of departmental organization and teaching. He was ever "a bonny fechter" when need arose and when he had at heart views or plans to promote or oppose; but however things went, whether to his liking or not, he carried on and never nursed a grievance. Sometimes when response came to him of gratitude or appreciation, his intimates were amused by his look of surprise, expressed by the sudden opening to their fullest extent of his remarkable blue eyes.

The long vacation of Christmas 1901 was spent travelling and collecting with a party of students around Lake Eyre in the north of South Australia, as described in his second well-known book, The Dead Heart of Australia; and again the title came to be an everyday term. Midsummer was not the ideal time for a hot climate, but then was the only holiday long enough to cause no break in the university term. The party returned in excellent health and spirits.

In 1902 he agreed to reorganize the Geological Survey, which meant undertaking a second practically whole-time job. It was made possible without encroaching on university teaching by careful adjustment of teaching times, by using time, his own or others, in the best combinations and to the best advantage, and by his power of work. The duties of the Survey led him all over Victoria, adding to his geological knowledge and enriching his lectures. To the end of his career he kept his lectures up to date through his travels and his continued search for knowledge. A picked body of his students in Victoria further benefited by staffing a survey camp during a month of the long vacation, the maps made being afterwards printed by the Geological Survey as their ordinary sheets. In at least one of the summer camps in the bush, the men had to shake out their clothes in the morning to dislodge any poisonous snakes.

On visits to Survey camps and other geological journeys, he sometimes travelled by a postman's cart, a light two-wheeled trap and single horst, the competent driver and horse doing a forty- mile stage in the day and back the next day; then the horse had two days' rest while a second one was taken out. Some settlements were served by coaches, and along the rough mountain tracks of the Gippsland forest country there were wonderful exhibitions of driving, swinging round sharp corners as the road circled the end of a narrow gorge, and the bush track offered ruts over a foot deep. The driver and even the conductor were something of personages locally, and the drivers could claim kin with sea captains in a certain likeness to the hearty manners of the sea, and the ready response and acceptance of responsibility of the master mariner.

During such a journey on which he had taken his wife, he had arranged to spend three days at a gold-mine to work out the geology. Night brought no slackening in the thunder of the batteries of stamps which continued throughout it, smashing the ore, making the ground shake, and rendering night hideous for one light sleeper, who by morning was a wreck. Regretfully Gregory broke it to the management that owing to an unexpected -- and unexplained - change in plan he would have to finish his work there that day and push on to his next port of call. The manager was deeply disappointed. Shortly he returned to ask, "Would it affect your decision if we stopped the stamps tonight?" That night blissful silence fell, the stamp-mills lost a night's output, and a wife slept like the dead.

The homogeneity of Victoria, its ideals and standards of conduct and education which embraced the whole population, the friendly, family feeling, perhaps only possible where numbers are still small, and the remarkable honesty all delighted him and satisfied his strong sense of citizenship. At first he wondered whether on long geological walks to burden himself with a camera -- a weight in those days -- with probably a heavy bag of specimens to carry home too; or whether to take photographs early in the excursion, park the camera by the wayside, and collect it on his return. He decided to risk the camera, expecting to lose it but hoping to get good work out of it first. He always left a note on it saying it would be called for, to ensure that some well-intentioned person would not escort it as a stray to the police station. Sometimes he would notice the footprints of a passer-by who had walked up to it. It was never lost.

On one visit up country, with an early train to catch, he had
arranged to leave at some unearthly hour of the morning. The boots was in charge and served his breakfast, but when Gregory wished to settle the bill neither knew the amount owing, and the boots entirely declined any financial dealings as outside his province. It seemed a deadlock. There were several Melbourne visitors in the hotel, and the boots asked was there no one among them whom he knew. Well, there was Mr. X., said Gregory, he knew him slightly. "Oh," said the boots, much pleased with so simple a solution, "He can settle the bill, and you'll meet him in Melbourne and pay him back." Gregory had doubts, but being new to the country thought the boots might know best. Also he wanted to catch his train. Returned to Melbourne he asked X. what he owed him for that hotel bill. "Oh," exclaimed Mr. X., "It was you whose hotel bill I paid. The boots couldn't remember the name, but I thought I'd better pay it, and that the man, whoever he was, would remember mine." After that, before an early start, Gregory settled the bill overnight.

It may have been gathered he was a good walker. So were Australians: yet Melbourne students sang,
Here's to Prof. Gregory who walks at his ease,
While all his pore students go bung at the knees.

To join him on his way to or from work was to be sure of a burst of vigorous exercise. In his youth in London he reckoned on moving at the athletic speed of 5 mph. Even in latter years he could outwalk and outpace most men.

A study of the Mount Lyell Mines and the adjacent country was the main purpose of visits to Tasmania, and resulted in a book on the mining field but nearly cost him his life. While rock climbing he grazed the ball of his thumb, the scratch must have absorbed some acute infection, and in a couple of days the right arm was affected to the elbow. Fortunately the mine doctors were practised surgeons and - in days before antibiotics - operated at once, while a director of the company rushed up by special train to ensure that everything possible was being done. By the time his wife could reach that remote spot in the mountains, Gregory looked like a wraith, and his arm to the elbow was nothing but an elaborate system of drainage tubes; but the poison was under control, and though the tubes and painful dressings continued for weeks, good surgery combined with his recuperative powers and sound constitution triumphed. His arm and health made a perfect recovery, and the stiffened thumb responded to massage and was also finally restored.

The long vacation of l903-4 was spent in New Zealand, attending a meeting of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science and travelling the length of the Islands from the Bluffs to Auckland. An excursion was made to the west coast of the South Island where the natural scenery is wonderful and unique; where tree ferns and tropical vegetation flourish within a mile or two of the glacier snouts, and scarlet rata contrasts with the blue crevasses and white snows of the high mountains.

Early in 1904 he began his fifth university session at Melbourne, in the full swing of work and enjoyment of what he delightedly described as "a geologically unexplored continent beginning at the back garden." Yet he did not mean to spend the rest of his life at the antipodes; the call of London was too strong. Almost incessantly he missed the great scientific libraries: the Royal Society -- of which he had been elected a Fellow in l90l - housed in dignified seclusion; that doorway opening direct from the roar and bustle of Piccadilly into the exquisite quiet of the Geological Society's rooms, to which he homed with all the familiar pleasure of a son of the house; the reading room of the British Museum; the Royal Geographical Society with its maps and beautifully lit map-room; the Patent Office library, and many other havens of learning; the Athenaeum Club with its literary and learned traditions where the interests and talk included every profession and subject. But now a threat declared itself to overshadow all else: his wife's constant and increasing ill health. Loth as he was to leave Australia, longer residence there involved a risk he would not take. To him return home had become imperative.

At this time, a Chair of Geology was founded in Glasgow University. A friend expressed confidence that Gregory's reputation was high enough for him to be able to count on the appointment if he chose to apply. His printed application is dated 17th May, 1904. Geologists may like to know his supporting referees were Professor J W Judd, Canon T G Bonney, and Emeritus Professor Eduard Suess of Vienna. Gregory stipulated that he could not begin till November, to let him finish the 1904 session in Melbourne and give that University time to appoint a successor for its next session. Though he was a resident Australian for less than five years, he always retained his feeling for country and people and his friendships with them; about twenty-four years later he was still corresponding with some of them on developments in their problems. As these pages are being revised, word comes from Melbourne that the Department of Geology has moved into a new, well-equipped building, in which it is proposed to name one of the teaching laboratories the "Gregory Laboratory".

In Glasgow he found himself engaged on almost a repeat of the Melbourne experiences. The geology class began from scratch in 1904 with twelve students; by the time he retired in 1929 it had increased to over four hundred. At the outset, as in Melbourne, the propriety was questioned of letting the sexes share excursions. Queen Margaret College had been incorporated in 1893 as the women's department of the University for arts and medicine, holding separate classes for the women. Gregory believed that this was against the interests of women's education. When he was organizing Saturday excursions for geological field-work, he was waylaid in the quad by an administrator who asked would he be willing to run separate excursions for the women students. He replied that before answering he would like to step over to his department and look up the class register. "Whatever has that got to do with it?" the man from the office asked. "Well, I have two women students," Gregory explained. "One has a doctor's certificate exempting her from excursions, and one is pretty; and I can't remember which is which."

He heard no more about separate excursions. The point was unlikely to arise for the lectures because, the University being 453 years old, times for lectures were well booked and Geology had to be content with 4.30 pm for the ordinary class, known in the Department as "Part 1", and the still more unlikely hour of 5.30 for the advanced class, Part 2. It was a matter of opinion whether this was any worse than the 8 am start made by Greek and Electrical Engineering. It bore hard on students who had a railway journey to reach home after 6.30; and one may spare a thought for the Professor who had to lecture regularly from 4.30 till 6.30.

His son to his lasting regret took the Part 1 class while his father was abroad. He has a vivid recollection of after his father's return going into his room and hearing the sounds of him and the Part 1 class in harmony. The clear voice flowing smoothly on was accompanied by the little noises of a large class kept happily on the stretch, intently following and note-taking, quickly responding to the lecturer with here a ripple of amusement and there a note of appreciation or surprise, exploding once into a gale of laughter. The daily press reports of a Royal Commission then sitting were making much of the miners' leader's attacks on the Duke of Hamilton for being paid a shilling a ton royalty for his coal without having to go down the pit to bring it up. In his lecture, Gregory had recounted some valuable scientific work done by an earlier Duke and had added simply, "So even dukes have their uses."

Very early in Gregory's Glasgow years his wife, standing also in this room during a lecture, heard the formidable protest made by students dragging their feet on the floor, an astonishing noise when you hear it first: her husband had ill-advisedly referred to "the English army," and had been corrected. The Part 2 lectures were magical, the highlight of a University course. And the most exciting part of them was the section on mining geology. As his demonstrator in mineralogy, Miss Neilson, said, "You wanted to get every word down.” It described different types of mineral deposit all over the world, the elucidation of how the deposit had been formed, and how that knowledge bore on mining the deposit. This was told by a man who had visited most of the deposits he described, who had explored many of them geologically, had at least contributed to understanding them, and could tell you out of his head where to turn up the current explanation of the field. All this was enlivened by touches of local colour, as noticed by a visitor in the great days of the field, yet retaining a grip on the classification of the world-wide occurrence of the mineral. One returned reluctantly from these enthralling scientific adventures to the murk of 6.30 pm. on a Scottish night.

After two years of absence abroad, in 1919 Gregory found the Part 1 class enlarged in size and relaxed in discipline; but as the term advanced peace was restored. His son, having seen how rough a Glasgow class can be on even a first-rate lecturer, asked his father however he had overcome the disorder. After the usual short pause to think out the answer, Gregory replied, "I think they came to realise I didn't like it." No doubt this was an accurate diagnosis. What a picture it gives of the bond that formed between listeners and himself! Instead of heartless persecution, affectionate support developed and determination to hear the lectures. One of his students, J V Harrison, wrote, "As a teacher he was supreme and students thronged to hear him."

He was supported by able lecturers and demonstrators. Throughout his years in Glasgow his second in command was Dr. A W Tyrrell, an excellent lecturer and latterly the outstanding British petrologist of the time. To him fell the running of the department when his chief was abroad, though that rarely happened during term-time. Lecturers in palaeontology included Dr. W R Smellie at the end of the First World War and Dr. John Weir from the 'twenties, retiring in September 1961 as Senior Lecturer in Geology. Miss Neilson was an admirable teacher to small groups of students with hand specimens; her drastic warning of one of the truths of mineralogy leaps to mind, "Any mineral can be any colour." Further study may blur the edges of that pronouncement, besides finding support for it; but in any case it is a sound starting point.

The part of the classes to stand out most in the minds of Gregory's students was probably the field-work. It was different from the run of university work. First, waiting at the rendezvous for the Professor to arrive. If he came in trousers, an easy walk lay ahead. If he had on knee breeches, you would have to exert yourself. But if he was wearing puttees, the storm-cones were hoisted and you knew an arduous day lay ahead, ankle deep in the wintry "Land of the mountain and the flood, Land of brown heath and shaggy wood," while you were led among striking geological sections and rocks and structures, and learnt something of how to interpret what lay below from what you could see on the surface. Best of all were the Meal Monday weekends. Tradition has it that two students from the Highlands were noticed to be always absent from their classes on the first Monday in February and in March. Enquiry showed that they used those weekends to travel home and replenish the bag of oatmeal on which they mainly lived. Ever since, these Meal Mondays have been University holidays. The second weekend was invaluable for getting to grips geologically with some such area as Bute or around Blair Atholl. In the evening, Gregory could often be got to talk about his travels, or the opening up of Africa in which he had taken part, sometimes as the London correspondent of the influential monthly magazines. What astonished his son when he was in the class was that this history and these stories were new to him. They were not to be heard at home. His father plucked them fresh from the store in his memory, often from thirty years ago, for a fresh audience. Besides, to the end of his life, he had such zest and interest in the present that he was little given to reminiscence.

For the first Meal Monday weekend, if the snow was adequate, he might take a few senior students skiing - with half a dozen pairs of skis that had been stored under the lecture theatre -- to an upland moor near Glasgow or to the Highlands. He was an early enthusiast for Scottish skiing, one-time president of the Scottish Ski Club, and encouraged the organizing of snow reports from the best spots. Since photography is valuable in geology, he designed a beautiful little dark room for staff and senior students in the tiny space under a stairs. The stairs led to the gloomy basements of the mock gothic building, used as laboratories and forming half the department. A long-awaited new Geological Institute, on the other side of University Avenue, has its official opening in April 1977.

He extended his walking powers by frequent use of a bicycle, often taking it in a train to save time in dull areas. He explored the Scottish west coast in a 27 ft. cutter, seeing not only the geology but the beauty of otherwise inaccessible islands and straits, inlets and lochs.

From Museum days on, he gave expert evidence many times. The expert scientific witness is employed to elucidate the truth and must adhere to his own settled convictions. When asked to give evidence Gregory always studied the affair most carefully, and not unless he was convinced that the side approaching him was geologically in the right did he agree; this, with his great stored knowledge of geology, acute reasoning powers, unusually fine memory, and unshakable nerve, made him stand like a rock in court. A heartening spectacle, the old tag made manifest, "Magna est veritas et praevalebit."

His first case turned on whether china clay is a mineral. Though a young man, he was asked to give evidence because most of the recognised authorities were appearing for the other side. In the face of that formidable opposition, he enabled his side to prove in court that china clay owes its character to deep-seated activity, not to surface weathering like most clays, and therefore, for the purposes of a disputed agreement, it was a mineral. A spectator in another case who watched him under cross-examination for some hours remembered how considered but clear and decided his answers were. In particular, at one tense moment, all the gowned and bewigged gentlemen seemed waiting, expectant for something. Gregory paused for a moment, then gave his answer, the tension snapped, and a laugh went round the court. The listener, hidden in the shadows of a high gallery, knew that in that little pause Gregory had looked ahead, seen the entanglement preparing by the opposing barrister, and eluded it. In general, when he saw what Counsel was embarking on wringing out of him, he would simply produce the required information. "You save time," he once said, "and incidentally get a reputation for frankness. You can be sure they will get it out of you in the end; that's their job, and they are expert at it." Lord Findlay once expressed the opinion to a colleague that expert witnesses were useless to a case in court. "Except," he added, "one of 'em - a Scotchman from Glasgow called Gregory."

He had an extreme liking and tolerance for his fellow men and interest in them. He was much more inclined to talk on their subjects than on his own because he really was more interested in what they had to tell him than wishful to speak of his own doings or interests. Many even of his friends therefore had a surprisingly partial knowledge of his achievements and occupations. Although he was a man of strong and enduring affections, both for friends and family, none but his intimates would have divined the depth of his feeling for his domestic circle or fondness for his home. An acquaintance once remarked that he might almost have been a Moslem trained in a rigid etiquette of never speaking of ladies outside their own family circle. His daughter was sometimes amused to be greeted with uncontrollable surprise by some friend who thought he knew Gregory but was quite unaware of his owning a family. It was an instance of his habit of keeping his interests in watertight compartments.

His gentleness of manner was the outcome of a perfect temper combined with a complete lack of self-consciousness or conceit; but that gentle, sometimes hesitating manner, simulating the effect of a shyness that he did not feel, covered neither timidity nor a "meek" disposition; occasionally people reckoning on its doing so were more than surprised. He was ever ready when challenged to join battle joyfully and to support his convictions in vigorous debate. Sir John Flett wrote: "My experience of a long friendship with Gregory was that it was very unwise to assume that you knew more of any subject than Gregory did; it was dangerous to differ from him in opinion, as in the quietest possible manner he would produce some devastating facts, well attested but not widely known, that would shatter premature hypotheses."

Nearly everyone has some mental blind spot; his was inability to speak foreign tongues. He could read the geological literature of many languages, but a colloquial knowledge to extend his communications with foreigners, particularly French and German scientific colleagues, would have given him very great pleasure. He once said with heartfelt regret, "The time I've wasted trying to learn to speak French and German!" He had, however, the talent of communicating with his fellow men without articulate speech, or of attaining his object without it.

He looked on the main function of science as ministering to man's welfare and happiness. Great as was his enthusiasm for science and his love of it, his fundamental interest was humanity, hence the interest in applied science and the geographical studies. He vigorously defended and explained the White Australia policy. He was chosen head of expeditions to Cyrenaica (1908) and Southern Angola (1912) to report on their suitability for Jewish colonization. Two of his books deal with inter-racial and emigration problems. He served on the Calcutta University Commission of 1917-19, and on the way home revisited Kenya to report on water supply. Other journeys abounded, adding to his power as a teacher. His never-ceasing activity produced twenty books and over three hundred papers. His interest in the structure of the earth led him in 1922 through Burma to south-western China, accompanied by his son, on a l500-mile walk which they described in To the Alps of Chinese Tibet, each writing half. Interest in the structure of the earth also drew him to the Andes in 1932 on his last expedition. Long before, when asked if he had ever been to South America, he replied that he had twice arranged to go there but each time an international disaster had stopped him, so he had better not arrange a visit a third time lest some cataclysm took place. In rapids on the river Urubamba in Peru, on June 2nd a canoe overturned and he was drowned.

Many scientific honours had been bestowed on him--prizes, medals, honorary memberships, degrees, honorary and otherwise, presidencies. He was proudest of all, he once said, of the unofficial title conferred on him by the miners of Ballarat, "Our Professor".

A memorial to him, "Scientist, explorer, teacher," a profile in deep relief by Walter Marsden, FRBS, is in Woodham Walter church, near Maldon, Essex, where his wife and her parents lie in the churchyard.

On summing up the twenty-five years in Glasgow, Dr. Tyrrell wrote: "Professor Gregory speedily established himself in Scotland as a great teacher, administrator, and researcher ... His genial and informal manner, his fascinating lecturing, his complete accessibility and readiness to discuss any subject at any time, endeared him to a generation of students. Each successive geology class fell under his spell as its members gradually realised and came to reverence the charm and versatility, vast range of interests, and world-wide reputation of the Professor. Under his guidance and inspiration a Glasgow geological school grew up, the fame of which was spread by its research work, and by the young men trained in it, who went forth on their professional errands into all the earth, preaching with enthusiasm the geological gospel according to Gregory ... His relations with his staff were never less than entirely harmonious. He was always a fountain of inspiration and a reservoir of power to his juniors, because of his tremendous reputation, his vast erudition, his prodigious energy, his encyclopaedic knowledge of geology and cognate subjects, and not least, his character and personality as a man."8

And Professor P G H Boswell wrote of him: "By his travels, and by the regional and tectonic studies connected with them, Gregory did much to counteract the parochial tendency of British geology during the past quarter-century; no other British geologist achieved such a world-wide reputation, or had such a large circle of friends in every continent ... Viewing his multifarious achievements in the light of their difficulty of accomplishment, we realise that his apparent diffidence of manner concealed a tenacity of purpose and hid a mind to which fear was unknown."9


REFERENCES

1 Geographical Journal, vol. IV, 1894, p. 516.
2 Ibid. p. 518.
3 Ibid. pp. 516-7.
4 Ibid. p. 295.
5 Sir William Martin Conway, The First Crossing of Spitsbergen (J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd.) 1897, pp. 9, 36, 34, 32, 61, 127.
6 J. W. Gregory, The Geography of Australia, Historical, Physical and Political (Whitcombe & Tombs), preface.
7 Nature, 25 June 1932, pp. 930-1.
8 Journal of the West of Scotland Agricultural College Former Students' Club, No. 13, 1932, pp. 39-40. Professor Gregory was long a Governor of the College.
9 Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society, No. 1, 1932.

Brief estimates of Gregory's scientific achievements, made at the time of his death, are contained in 7 and 9 above; in the obituary by Dr. G W Tyrrell in Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society, vol 89, pt 3, 1933, pp. xci-xciv; and in Nature of 27 August 1932.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The publishers or copyright owners of works 5, 7, 8 and 9 listed above are warmly thanked for their kind permission to include extracts.

END
Biography
3 Aubrey Road
Campden Hill
London From the James, Pyne, Dixon Family Book, 1977:

"John Walter Gregory was born on 27th January 1864, in Bow. He began exploring young. One day his younger sister Eleanor and he were sent off late for school, and reached it to find the door shut with bell and knocker out of reach. School proving impracticable for that morning, taking the other baby by the hand, he said, 'Let us travel', and together they set out for Victoria Park, a distant expedition, but successfully ended in time for the mid- day meal. The childish adventure shows promise of a strength of character combined with originality and elasticity of mind that was to be notable in his life.

Most of his school days were spent at Stepney Grammar School, Bow, the headmaster of which was the Rev. Ayrton Chaplin, his future father-in-law. When he was twelve his father died - John James Gregory, a wool merchant of London who had lost his own father when he was ten. John Walter Gregory followed in his father's footsteps in the City and laid the foundations of his unrivalled knowledge of geography at this time, by attending as a clerk at wool sales where wools from all over the world had to be noted and listed at high speed. Meanwhile he had gone on walking. In his Evolution of the Essex Rivers he wrote: 'It was in the hope of finding some interpretation of the apparently anomalous behaviour of the Ersex rivers that I first read a textbook of geology.... It was to unravel the geographical puzzles which presented themselves in Essex rambles that I became a student of geology.

With a vocation for science but employed in an office all day, he took evening classes at the Birkbeck Institution, working at home, often till the small hours of the morning, at the subjects for a London University degree in science. In 1887 he competed for an Assistantship in the Geological Department of the Natural History Museum, the science branch of the British Museum. In the face of severe competition, he was successful. He was now on the road of his choice. 'It is a great thing', he said to his son long after, 'to be able to do what you want in life.' On his father's death, the family had moved to Goulton Road, Clapton.

In the 'eighties Toynbee Hall was inaugurated in connection with St.Jude's, Whitechapel. Gregory counted it a great privilege to be admitted to the friendship of Canon and Mrs.Barnett, for whose devoted work among the poor of Whitechapel he had the greatest admiration. For several years he gave his Sunday afternoons to the Toynbee Natural History Society, helped to conduct summer camping excursions for its members - an almost unheard-of form of recreation at that date--and retained close relations with Toynbee Hall until he went to Australia. In 1904, Canon Barnett wrote: 'Dr. Gregory was intimately known to me during many years.... He made many friends among all classes who still hold him in affectionate memory and are proud when they hear of his great achievements.'

About thirty years later, he revisited the ground of a favourite Toynbee Hall excursion. In the summer of 1917, he had undertaken war work at the Air Board in London and his son joined him for a week while studying in the Mineral Gallery at the Natural History Museum. On Sunday they took a train to Holmwood in Surrey, whence they walked up to Coldharbour and on to Leith Hill. Being introduced to the surrounding Lower Greensand beds, seeing the lovely hills and woods - deserted in the stress of war--and hearing stories of the Toynbee Hall walks, was for the son like looking through a window into a treasured part of his father's bachelor days.

In 1891 he made his first journey outside Europe, to the Rocky Mountains and the Great Basin of the western United States for geological purposes. He had the company of his elder sister Anne, who was always ready with help and encouragement to further his plans.

Late next year his services were lent by the Museum to a lavishly planned expedition expecting to explore the northern part of what is now Kenya. The expedition collapsed and came to nothing, by which time he was a very sick man. W.W.A. Fitzgerald of the staff of the British East Africa Company was camped on the Tana at the time, and later said: 'He arrived with only one man after the break-up of the expedition..., and I certainly would not have been surprised if, after what he had gone through, he had returned at once to England. He then came down to examine the country between the Tana and the Sabaki (Galana] rivers, but the next day collapsed with dysentery and fever; when he recovered I expected he would have made up his mind to go straight down to Mombasa and home, but his first words were, "I think I shall start an expedition to get up to Lake Baringo"

In March 1899 he found himself at Mombasa, with greatly impaired health but with six months of leave still in hand. His resources were modest and for financial backing he had only his museum pay. 'My friends in Mombasa', he wrote,'dedared that both the time and force were insufficient' for what he meant to do. But 'I rechecked my estimates of time and cost. I could find nothing wrong with them.' Gratefully accepting invaluable local advice and disregarding gloomy local forecasts, he quickly organized his expedition and set out on March 29rd. The little caravan consisted only of forty Africans and himself; he could find no white man to join him and share the many tasks of command, which would have left him much more time to devote to science. Afterwards he used to laugh and say the journey was at any rate a record in the matter of expense. It may also have been a record in speed for a journey of this sort, for he overcame difficulties and covered the ground so fast he marched 1650 miles in five months less two days.

When his splendid headman, Omari, was asked how he had got on, he replied,'Very well, but lots of hard work, very hard work'. At a meeting of the Royal Geographical Society, Captain F.D. Lugard, later Lord Lugard, said: 'Perhaps few can appreciate more than I can (having travelled in the country myself) the pluck shown by Dr. Gregory. I think that nobody has ever been through MasailaJnd without at least 100 or 1SO armed men. Dr. Gregory, with no previous knowledge of the country, found himself left in the lurch on the coast, and determined not to abandon his enterprise and confess to failure.... He went up through the most dangerous part of the country, about the time of the rains, which meant that he must encounter large numbers of the Masai, who come down to graze their flocks at that season. He went from Naivasha, the headquarters of the Masai, into the Lailkipia country, where no one had passed before him, and from which Mr. Thomson had to fly for his life after getting to the lower slopes only of Kenya. Dr.Gregory nevertheless passed boldly through Laikipia, and turned down through Kikuyu, as dangerous a country as you could find in Africa, without any fighting, and managed to make friends with the people.'

No wonder that the first white man whose outpost he reached on return ran out in relief to welcome him. What he called out was, 'Oh, Dr. Gregory, is that you?'. Thus was the news given to the explorer that the thesis he had submitted before starting had been successful and had earned him in absentia a doctorate of science. He had explored the immense trough which he named the Great Rift Valley from south of Lake Naivasha to Lake Barjngo, studied its structure, its lava-fields, and those of the neighbouring highlands, and examined the ancient glaciers of Mount Kenya. On return to England he gave some of the scientific results in a series of papers ranging from physical geography to anthropology, and from mountaineering and glacial geology to the parasites of malaria. Meanwhile his colleagues worked out the collections of animals and plants he had brought back; new species abounded. A description of the journey forms the first half of his book The Great Rift Valley (1896), the second half dealing with geology, natural history, anthropology, and future prospects of the country.

The Oxford English Dictionary gives the first use of the term 'rift valley' as that by J.W. Gregory in the Geogmphical Journal, October 1894. There he wrote: '.... one of those valleys of subsidence with long, steep parallel walls which Professor Suess has called "Graben" The famous Yosemite valley may be taken as a well-known type of these "rift valleys" as they may conveniently be called.' He had visited the Yosemite valley of California in 1891. One result of his further bavelling in East Africa in 1919 was his book The Rift valleys and Geology of East Africa in which he mentions that 'For this type of valley I suggested the name of Rift Valley, using the term "rift" in the sense of a relatively narrow space due to subsidence between parallel fractures. Such valleys are known in many parts of the world but that of East Africa may be justly called the Great Rift Valley, as it extends from Northern Palestine to Southern Africa.'

In 1894 his mother died, the family gave up the house at Clapton and he settled in rooms in John Street, a flat in one of the pleasant old 18th century houses still remaining round about Gray's Inn. The next year he married Audrey Chaplin and set up house on Campden Hill at 3 Aubrey Road, one of the attractive little old country houses left intact on the hill. It was - for him - within convenient walking distance of the Natural History Museum.

His first published scientific work may have been a paper The Geology of Puffin Island' (off Anglesey) which he read in December 1887, the year he joined the Natural History Museum. In 1891, besides obtaining his B.Sc., he produced seven papers, one of which he submitted as a thesis for D.Sc. Thereafter his output of work never slackened. The scope of it was extraordinarily wide. As early as 1894, Professor Bonney said, 'He is a singularly all-round man; in fact, even as a geologist, I never know where to classify him. He is supposed to be a palaeontologist, but he is quite as much a petrologist.' The years made classifying him increasingly difficult.

Characteristic of his talent for using every opportunity, in the interval between the two African expeditions in 1893, while convalescing from severe illness, he had learnt to handle a native canoe, taught by 'my friend the son of the Pokomo chief'. This accomplishment was put to practical use when he packed a young wife and camping kit into a Canadian canoe, and the pair enjoyed delightful but suitably economical holidays, touring English and French waterways. In accordance with his unswerving principle of never taking an unnecessary risk, no one was allowed in the canoe unless he could swim.

In 1896 he went as naturalist with the expedition described by Sir Martin Conway, later Lord Conway of Allington, in The First Crossing of Spitsbergen. 'Gregory.... gave us the benefit of his boundless energy, his alert observation, and his wide experience.' When about to sail from Tromso, 'The ship, as the day advanced, became a mere pandemonium.... All sorts of people came to say good-bye.... The deck was crowded. Glasses clinked. Every one was in the way of every one else.... In the midst of the shindy, Gregory digested geological papers from various journals, cross-questioned any one that came handy about Spitsbergen birds or the Norwegian vocabulary, and went on piling up information generally. "You read always", said the French gentleman to him. "Yes" was the merry reply; "you see I am young and have a lot to learn':' At sea, 'Cold breezes and showers drove us to seek employment below.... He was actively employed measuring the details of four hundred specimens of a bone from the head of cod-fish. He said the pastime was excellent.' Climbing a hill,'Gregory went ahead like a steam-engine, whilst I did the puffing and blowing behind.'
When they had set up camp, 'Late at night a shot was fired from the steamer-at some bird, I suppose. Gregory, half asleep, leaped up. He thought it was the Masai coming to loot his camp.' When a message had to be carried, 'Gregory started for his thirty-mile bog-tramp to Advent Bay. He went forth in the gayest fashion, saying it was some time since he had walked fifty miles at a stretch, but he thought this thirty might be counted as an equivalent, which indeed was true.'

In 1899 he employed his vacation in a trip to the West Indies, accompanied by his wife. He visited among others the small island of Anguilla to collect bones of fossil vertebrates. There was little regular communication with the island, and he chartered a small sloop with negro master and mate navigating without even a compass.

In the autumn of 1899 Gregory decided to apply for the professorship of geology in Melbourne University, a new chair. It was a very serious decision that he had to make, especially for so devoted a son of London. Promotion at the Museum, however, appeared to be unlikely and he was considering the advisability of being called to the Bar and specializing in a scientific legal practice when the opening offered for geology in Australia. He applied and in 1900 was appointed. He had done much good work at)the Museum. Someone had been needed to work on the fossil bryozoa and corals and he had made these especially his own. He published many papers on them, on echinoides and other subjects and wrote three catalogues, standard works of reference, describing and defining the Jurassic and Cretaceous bryozoa. He was a most strenuous and rapid worker and ever generous in giving good value for payment received, so that when the Museum allowed extra leave of absence, it was assured of his overtaking his ordinary Museum work; also he was under bond to hand over everything he collected during the leave and brought home, and to this he scrupulously adhered.

The Australian long vacation between sessions is during our midwinter. Early in 1900 he left England to begin a residence in Australia which was to exceed even his cheerful expectations. The geological department had to be built from the foundations. The prime essentials of a school, however, keen and intelligent students, were not long in assembling. 'In two years' a colleague, Dr. Martin, wrote four years later,'he had made geology one of the most important and popular subjects in the University.... As Professor of Geology he took a principal part in the organization of the School of Mining Engineering. During the last two years he has, in addition to his university work, entirely re-organized the Geological Survey of Victoria for the State Government. Gregory's energy was the admiration and envy of us all, but he was such a good colleague that I don't think any of us envied him his success.'

Students and professor were soon on those terms with one another whicb Gregory was to maintain for thirty years with so many generations of undergraduates. He had a talent for friendship; he continued making new friends all his life, but never forgot an old one. With his accurate memory for faces and facts he could accost a friend or acquaintance after the lapse of years, and easily and smoothly resume intercourse. One of his old students has recorded how 'on meeting him after an absence the smile that transfigured his face gave joy and strength more than he knew.' His friends were not only numerous but of the most astonishing diversity, and from one end to the other of the social scale, from peers of the ream to 'the many swagsmen [travellers on foot in the bush] and prospectors, who while we have shared a billy of tea on the roadside or on the mountain track, have given me the benefit of their intimate acquaintance with the back blocks of Victoria.'

He was willing and eager to share his knowledge with anyone interested. His enthusiasm and example were infectious. Sometimes when response came to him of gratitude or appreciation, his intimates were amused by his look of surprise, expressed by the sudden opening to their fullest extent of his remarkable blue eyes.

The long vacation of Christmas 1901 was spent travelling and collecting with a party of students around Lake Eyre in the north of South Australia, as described in his second wcllknown book, The Dead Heart of Australia: and again the title came to be accepted as an everyday term. It may have been gathered he was a good walker. So were Australians; yet his students sang,
Here's to Prof. Greg'ry who walks at his ease,
While all his pore students go bung at the knees.

To join him on his way to or from work was to be sure of a burst of vigorous exercise. In his youth in London he reckoned on moving at the athletic speed of 5 m.p.h. Even in latter years he could outwalk and outpace most men. Visits to Geological Survey camps and other geological travels took him all over the state of Victoria, sometimes by a postman's cart, a light two-wheeled trap and single horse, doing a forty-mile stage in the day. Some settlements were served by coaches, and along the rough mountain tracks of the Gippsland forest country there were wonderful exhibitions of driving, swinging round sharp corners as the road circled the end of a narrow gorge, and the bush track offered ruts over a foot deep.

The homogeneity of Victoria, its ideas and standards of conduct and education which embraced the whole population, the friendly, family feeling, perhaps only possible where numbers are still small, and the remarkable honesty all delighted him and satisfied his strong sense of citizenship. At first he wondered whether on long geological walks to burden himself with a camera - a weight in those days - with probably a heavy bag of specimens to carry home too, or whether to take photographs early in the excursion, park the camera by the wayside, and collect it on his return. He decided to risk the camera, expecting to lose it but hoping to get good work out of it first. He always left a note on it saying it would be called for, to ensure that some well-intentioned person would not escort it as a stray to the police station. Sometimes he would notice the footprints of a passer-by who had walked up to it. It was never lost.

A study of the Mount Lyell Mines and the adjacent country was the main purpose of visits to Tasmania and resulted in a book on the mining fields, but nearly cost him his life. While rock climbing, he grazed the ball of his thumb; the scratch must have absorbed some acute infection and in a couple of days the right arm was affected to the elbow. Fortunately the mine doctors were practised surgeons and - in days before antibiotics - operated at once, while a director of the company rushed up by special train to ensure that everything possible was being done. By the time his wife could reach that remote spot in the mountains, Gregory looked like a wraith and his arm to the elbow was nothing but an elaborate system of drainage tubes, but the poison was under control and though the tubes and painful dressings con- tinued for weeks, good surgery combined with his recuperative powers and sound constitution triumphed. His arm and health made a perfect recovery and the stiffened thumb responded to massage and was also finally restored.

The long vacation of 1903-4 was spent in New Zealand, attending a meeting of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science and travelhng the length of the Islands from the Bluffs to Auckland. An excursion was made to the west coast of the South Island, where the natural scenery is wonderful and unique; where tree ferns and tropical vegetation flourish within a mile or two of the glaciers and scarlet rata contrasts with the blue crevasses and white snows of the mountains. Early in 1904 he began his fifth university session at Melbourne in the full swing of work and enjoyment of what he delightedly described as 'a geologically unexplored continent beginning at the back garden'. Yet he did not mean to spend the rest of his life at the antipodes; the call of London was too strong. Almost incessantly he missed the great scientific libraries: the Royal Society-of which he had been elected a Fellow in 1901; the reading room of the British Museum; the Rqyal Geographical Society with its maps and beautifully lit map-room; the Patent Office Library and many other havens of learning. Moreover, the hot dry climate and the dust-storms were now fast breaking down his wife's health and she was continually and increasingly ill. Return home had become imperative.

At this time, a Chair of Geology was founded in Glasgow University. A friend expressed confidence that Gregory's reputation was high enough for him to be able to count on the appointment if he chose to apply. His printed application is dated 17th May, and he was appointed. He stipulated that he should not begin till November, to let him finish the 1904 session in Melboume and give that university time to appoint a successor for its next session. Though he was a resident Australian for less than five years, he always retained his feeling for country and people and his friendships with them; some 24 years later he was still corresponding with some of them about developments in their problems

In Glasgow he found himself engaged on almost a repeat of the Melbourne experiences. The geology class began in 1904 with twelve students, and by the time he retired in 1929 it had increased to over four hundred. An obituary in the Journal of the West of Scotland Agricultural College - of which college he was a governor - said,
Professor Gregory speedily established himself in Scotland as a great teacher. administrator, and researcher.... His genial and informal manner, his fascinating lecturing, his complete ·accessibility and readiness to discuss any subject at my time, endeared him to a generation of students. Each successive geology class fed under his spell as its members gradually realized and came to reverence the charm and versatility, vast range of interests, and world-wide reputation of the professor. Under his guidance and inspiration a G1asgow geological school grew up, the fame of which was spread by its research work, and by the young men trained in it, who went forth on their professional errands into all the earth, preaching with enthusiasm the geological gospel according to Gregory.....

His son, to his lasting regret, took the Part 1 class while his father was in India. He has a vivid recollection, after the Professor's return, of going into his room and hearing the sounds of him and the Part 1 class in harmony. The clear voice flowing smoothly on was accompanied by the little noises of a large class kept happily on the stretch, intently following and note-taking, quickly responding to the lecturer with here a ripple of amusement and there a note of appreciation or surprise, exploding once into a gale of laughter.

The Part 2 lectures were magical, the highlight of a university course. The most exciting part of them was the section on mining geology. As his demonstrator in mineralogy, Miss Neilson, said, 'You wanted to get every word down '. It described different types of mineral deposit all over the world, the elucidation of how the deposit had been formed, and how that knowledge bore on mining the deposit. This was told by a man who had visited most of the deposits he described, who had explored many of them geologically and had at least contributed to understanding them and could tell you out of his head where to turn up the current explanation of the field. All this was enlivened by touches of local colour, as noticed by a visitor in the great days of that field, yet retaining a grip on the classification of the world-wide occurrence of the mineral. One returned reluctantly from these enthralling scientific adventures to the murk of 6.30 p.m. on a Scottish night.

On coming home from his two-year absence in India, Gregory found the Part 1 class enlarged in size and relaxed in discipline, but as the term advanced peace was restored. His son, having seen how rough a Glasgow class can be on even a first-rate lecturer, asked his father however he had overcome the disorder. After the usual short pause to think out the answer, Gregory replied: 'I think they came to realize I didn't like it'. No doubt this was an accurate diagnosis. One of his students wrote: 'As a teacher he was supreme and students thronged to hear him.'

The part of the classes to stand out most in the minds of Gregory's students was probably the field work. It was different from the run of university work. First, waiting at the rendezvous for the Professor to arrive. If he came in trousers, an easy walk lay ahead. If he had on knee breeches, you would have to exert yourself. But if he was wearing puttees, the storm-cones were hoisted and you knew it would be an arduous day, ankle-deep in the wintry'Land of the mountain and the flood, Land of brown heath and shaggy wood', while you were led among striking geological sections and rocks and structures and learnt something of how to interpret what lay below from what you could see on the surface.

Gregory extended his own walking powers by frequent use of a bicycle, often taking it in a train to save time in dull areas. He cruised on the Scottish west coast in a 27-foot cutter, exploring it as one could do in no other way, seeing not only the geology but the beauty of otherwise inaccessible islands and straits, inlets and lochs.

He had an extreme liking and tolerance for his fellow men and interest in them. He was much more inclined to talk on their subjects than on his own because he really was more interested in.what they had to tell him than wishful to speak of his own doings or interests. Many even of his friends therefore had a sutprisingly partial knowledge of his achievements and occupations. Although he was a man of strong and enduring affections, both for friends and family, none but his intimates would have divined the depth of his feeling for his domestic circle or fondness for his home. An acquaintance once remarked that he might almost have been a Moslem trained in a rigid etiquette of never speaking of ladies outside their own family circle. His daughter was sometimes amused to be greeted with surprise by some friend who thought he knew Gregory but was quite unaware of his owning a family. It war an in- stance of his habit of keeping his interests in watertight compartments.

Nearly everyone has some mental blind spot; his was inability to speak foreign tongues. He could read the geological literature of many languages but a colloquial knowledge to ex- tend his communications with foreigners, particularly French and German scientific colleagues, would have given him very great pleasure. He had, however, the talent of communicating with his fellow men without articulate speech or of attaining his object without it. He often gave expert evidence. The expert scientific witness is employed to elucidate the truth and must adhere to his own settled convictions. When asked to give evidence Gregory always studied the whole affair most carefully, and not unless he was convinced that the side approaching him was geologically in the right did he agree; this, with his great stored knowledge of geology, acute reasoning powers, unusually fine memory, and unshakable nerve, made him stand like a rock in court. His first case turned on whether china clay is a mineral. Though a young man, he was asked to give evidence because most of the recognized authorities were appearing for the other side. In the face of that formidable opposition, he enabled his side to prove in court that china clay owes its character to deep-seated activity, not to surface weathering like most clays, and therefore, for the purposes of a disputed agreement, it war a mineral. The late Lord Findlay once expressed the opinion to a colleague that experts were useless to a case in court,'except', he added,'one of 'em,-a Scotchman from Glasgow called Gregory'.

He looked on the main function of science as ministering to man's welfare and happiness. Great as was his enthusiasm for science and his love of it, his fundamental interest was humanity, hence the interest in applied science and the geographical studies. He vigorously defended and explained the White Australia policy. He was chosen head of expeditions to Cyrenaica (1908) and Southern Angola (1912) to report on their suitability for Jewish colonization. Two of his books deal with inter-racial and emigration problems. He served on the Calcutta University Commission of 1917-19, and on the way home revisited Kenya to report on water supply. Other journeys abounded, adding to his power as a teacher. His neverceasing activity produced twenty books and over three hundred papers. His interest in the structure of the earth led him in 1922 through Burma to south-western China, accompanied by his son, and in 1932 to the Andes on his last expedition. In rapids on the river Urubamba in Peru, a canoe overturned & he was drowned.

Many scientific honours had been bestowed on him-prizes, medals, honorary memberships, degrees, honorary and otherwise, presidencies. He was proudest of all, he once said, of the unofficial title conferred on him by the miners of Ballarat, 'Our Professor'. 'By his travels', his obituary for the Royal Society said, "and by the regional and tectonic studies connected with them, Gregory did much to counteract the parochial tendency of British geology during the past quarter-century: no other British geologist achieved such a world-wide reputation, or had such a large circle of friends in every continent.... Viewing his multifarious achievements in the light of their difficulty of accomplishment, we realize that his apparent diffidence of manner concealed a tenacity of purpose and hid a mind to which fear was unknown."

END THE TIMES, June 14th 1932

Obituary
Professor J W Gregory, Geologist and Explorer

Professor J. W. Gregory, F. R. S., the distinguished geologist and explorer, is reported in a wireless message from Iquitos, transmitted by Reuter from Lima, to have been drowned in the Urubamba river near Megantomi Falls in Northern Peru. He was leading an expedition to study volcanic movements. He was 68.

As a traveller and explorer whose main interests were geology and natural history Professor Gregory held high rank. He had carried out investigations in many parts of the world: in North America, in the Rockies, in Australia, in Tibet, and in the Antarctic; but he will be best remembered for his work in Africa, where he had travelled in Cyrenaica -- when it was barely accessible to the scientist -- in the interior of Angola, and, especially, in East Africa. It was his investigation that first clearly made known the nature of the Rift valleys of that part of the continent. His work in that connection has been the foundation of all subsequent geological exploration in Eastern Africa, and of all his many books those on the great rift valleys are probably the best known.

Gregory was the son of a wool merchant of Bermondsey and Sittingborne, and from Stepney Grammar School went into the business at the age of 15 and continued in it for eight years, during which he travelled in Russia. In 1887 he was appointed an assistant in the Geological Department of the British Museum, a post which he held till 1900. Obtaining leave of absence, he travelled for geological purposes in the Rocky Mountains and in 1892-93 in East Africa. He organised single-handed an expedition which he described in "The Great Rift Valley: a Narrative of a Journey to Mount Kenya and Lake Baringo," published in 1896. In 1921 he published "The Rift Valleys and Geology of East Africa," the result of 25 years study and another visit to East Africa in 1919. On the first journey he came in touch with Sir Harry Johnston, Lord Lugard, and other explorers.

As naturalist to Sir Martin Conway’s expedition across Spitzbergen in 1896 he did excellent work; in 1900-01 he was director of the civilian scientific staff of the Antarctic expedition, while in Australia he was well-known as head of the Lake Eyre expedition of 1901-02. He was appointed Professor of Geology in the University of Melbourne in 1900, and held the Chair for four years, being for part of the time Director of the Geological Survey, Mines Department, Victoria. In the 1908 he undertook a journey in Cyrenaica to report on its suitability as a home for Zionists, and he showed himself there are to be as keen an antiquary as he was geologist and naturalist. In 1904 he was appointed Professor of Geology in the University of Glasgow, and held that post till 1929. In 1912 he went on an expedition to Angola, and with his son Christopher to the Alps of Chinese Tibet in 1922, which proved of great scientific value.

Professor Gregory left this country last January at the head of a scientific expedition to explore and study the volcanic and earthquakes centres of the Andes. The expedition numbered five, and included Miss McKinnon Wood, daughter of the late Mr T. McKinnon Wood, former Secretary for Scotland, who went as fossil collector. They arrived in Lima at the beginning of February. They planned to cross one of the lesser-known belts of the Andes, an area rising abruptly from the Pacific to a height of 50,000 feet, one of the highest mountain fronts on earth. The journey was to be continued by canoe along one of the headstreams of the Amazon. The Peruvian Government appointed two geologists to accompany Professor Gregory, and they also instructed him to prepare a detailed report on the results obtained. Professor Gregory was one of the foremost authorities on earthquakes in this country. Before leaving in January he said that the Andes appeared to have significant correspondence in date with the main stages of the formation of the Great Rift Valley, which he discovered 39 years ago. He hoped to examine the structure of parts of the Peruvian coasts and the geology of the desert belt between the coasts and Western front of the Andes. The party hoped also to visit the Inca ruins and to travel across Brazil. They hoped to return to this country next month.

Academic and scientific honours came to Gregory. He was elected F. R. S. in 1901 and was D. Sc. of London and Melbourne, LL.D of Liverpool, past president of the Geological Society of London, which gave him the Bigsby medal, president of the geological section of the British Association in 1907, and of the geographical section in 1924, again president of the geological section of the British Association at the centenary meeting last year, Victoria medallist of the Royal Geographical Society, gold medallist of the Scottish Geographical Society, and hon. member and medallist of various Dominion and foreign learned societies. He was president of the Scottish ski club in 1910-13, and was also fond of canoeing and yachting. In 1917 he was appointed a member of the Calcutta University Commission, and was joint author of the minority report. He was an excellent lecturer, and even the non-scientific reader finds his travel books full of good things. He had closely studied the problems of human migration and the alleged "drying-up" of the earth. He married Audrey, daughter of the Reverend Ayrton Chaplin, of Chelmsford, and had a son and a daughter.


Imperial and Foreign News (which paper is unknown - probably The Times)

An Ill-fated Expedition

Prof. Gregory's Death
From our correspondent. LIMA, July 18 (By Air Mail)

Details of the disaster which overtook the Gregory Geological Expedition in Peru on June 2, when Professor J. W. Gregory lost his life in the rapids of the Pongo de Mainique while descending the Urubamba River, have now become known. During the past week Miss M. McKinnon Wood, daughter of the late Mr Thomas McKinnon Wood and a member of the expedition, arrived in Lima and was able to supplement the little which had been previously known of the occurrence. The object of Professor Gregory's visit to Peru was to make a reconnaissance of the main Andean range and to determine the age at which it rose from the bed of the ocean, thus completing a study of a lifetime of the geological history of the Pacific Ocean. He was accompanied by Miss M. McKinnon Wood, of Cambridge University and specialist in geology, and by Mr A. V. Coverley-Price, of the British Diplomatic Service. M. Mariano C. Tarnawiecki, a Pole widely known in Peru as mine operator, explorer, and scientist, also accompanied the expedition by the courtesy of the Peruvian Government, with instructions to afford the members of the party every facility in their work.

Arriving in Lima at the end of January, the expedition carried out a series of important researches in the district of Ica and Nazea. Incidentally the presence of whale bones in the Ocucaje Valley and also near Ica was proved. From Nazca the party travelled by meal back to Cuzco via Andahuaylas. From a geological point of view much of great scientific interest was encountered along the trail. After a short stay in Cuzco, the expedition proceeded from Machu-Pichu by mule, via Huaillabambe and Ollantaitambo, to Rosalina, the point on the Urubamba River at which canoe navigation becomes possible. Here the party had to wait for three weeks while canoes were obtained. In the days of the rubber "boom," states Miss McKinnon Wood, a good overland trail used to connect Rosalina with the Pongo de Mainique, the last and worst of the chain of rapids which renders navigation on this section of the river so dangerous, but it has since being oblliterated by landslides. From Rosalina M. Tarnawiecki went by land to Mulanquiato in search of canoes, taking six days to cover the distance, the same distance being covered later by canoe in three days. From Mulanquiato the expedition proceeded down river in two canoes, reaching the mouth of the Pongo de Mainique in one-day. Here the night of June 1 was spent.

On the following day the luggage was carried to a point immediately above the Megantone Falls, the last and swiftest of the rapids, while the two canoes were lowered by rope. No portage over the last section was possible owing to the perpendicular character of the rocks. Moreover, recent landslides had narrowed the bed of the river still further and dangerously increased the volume of the current. In the circumstances the party had no option but to embark with their luggage and steer the best course possible through the broken water.

The disaster

The first canoe, with M.Tarnawiecki and a crew of six Machiganga Indians, shot through into safety, though the canoe was badly waterlogged in transit. The second canoe, containing Professor Gregory, Miss McKinnon Wood, and Mr Coverley-Price, capsized. Miss McKinnon Wood, aided by the current, managed to swim ashore, as did also Mr Coverley-Price. Professor Gregory was seen by his companions clinging to the canoe, which was being swept down-stream. Then he was apparently caught in the back eddy of one of the two whirlpools which generally (although not constantly) are to be found at this point. He was swept backwards, upstream, and finally disappeared from sight in the centre of the whirlpool.

His body was recovered three days later and buried on the left bank of the river below the Pongo. Bearings were taken of the site of the grave. Of the fruits of the expedition much valuable material was lost. Bags containing geological specimens sank in the stream. The rest of the luggage, packed in rubber bags, floated to the surface and was recovered, although many of the more delicate scientific instruments, photographic material, and notes were irretrievably damaged by water. After burying the body of their leader, the survivors continued their journey down the Urubamba to its mouth. Thence Mr Coverley-Price left the country to join as rapidly as possible the staff of the British Legation in Bucharest, while Miss McKinnon Wood and M. Tarnawiecki travelled by air to San Ramon and thence by road and rail to Lima.

END
J W Gregory. Scientist. Explorer. Teacher.

This miniature memoir of my father is based on an unpublished “biographical sketch” of him by my mother – C J G

Dukes Orchard
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Printed by A E Simmons Ltd, 47 Baddow Road, Chelmsford.


JOHN WALTER GREGORY was born on January 27th 1864, in Bow. He began exploring early. One day his younger sister Eleanor and he were sent off late for school, and reached it to find the door shut with bell and knocker out of reach. School proving impracticable for that morning, taking the other baby by the hand, he said, “Let us travel,” and together they set out for Victoria Park, a distant expedition, but possible to determined intelligence and sturdy legs. It was successfully ended in time for the mid-day meal, causing their elders no anxiety. The childish adventure shows promise of strength of character combined with originality and elasticity of mind that was to be notable in his life.

Most of his schooldays were spent at Stepney Gammar School, Bow, the headmaster of which was the Rev. Ayrton Chaplin, his future father-in-law. When he was twelve his father died - John James Gregory, a wool merchant of London. The tie between father and son must have been a close one; through life Gregory quoted his father and regretted his early loss. A favourite saying of both was, "Better to wear out than rust out." John Walter followed in his father's footsteps in the City, and at this time laid the foundation of his unrivalled knowledge of geography by attending as a clerk at wool sales, where wools from all over the world had to be noted and listed at high speed.

Meanwhile he had gone on walking. In his Evolution of the Essex Rivers he wrote: "It was in the hope of finding some interpretation of the apparently anomalous behaviour of the Essex rivers that I first read a textbook of geology... It was to unravel the geographical puzzles which presented themselves in Essex rambles that I became a student of geology."

With a vocation for science but employed in an office all day, he took evening classes at the Birkbeck Institute, working at home, often till the small hours of the morning, for a London University degree in science. In 1887 he competed for an Assistantship in the Geological Department of the Natural History Museum, the science branch of the British Museum. In the face of severe competition, he was successful. He was now on the road of his choice. "It is a great thing," he said to his son long after, "to be able to do what you want in life."

His first published scientific work may have been a paper The Geology of Puffin Island (off Anglesey) which he read to Liverpool Biological Society in December 1887. In 1891, besides obtaining his B.Sc. he produced seven papers; the one entitled The Maltese Fossil Echinoidea and their Evidence on the Correlation of the Maltese Rocks he submitted as a thesis for D.Sc. Thereafter his output of work never slackened. The scope of it was extraordinarily wide. As early as 1894, Professor Bonney said, “He is a singularly all-round man; in fact even as a geologist, I never know where to classify him. He is supposed to be a paleontologist, but he is just as much a petrologist.”1 The years made classifying him increasingly difficult.

On his father's death, the family had moved from Bow to Goulton Road, Clapton. In the 'eighties, Toynbee Hall was inaugurated in connection with St Jude's, Whitechapel. Gregory counted it a great privilege to be admitted to the friendship of Canon and Mrs Barnett, for whose devoted work among the poor of Whitechapel he had the greatest admiration. For several years he gave his Sunday afternoons to the Toynbee Natural History Society, helped to conduct summer camping excursions for its members - an almost unheard-of form of recreation at that date -- and retained close relations with Toynbee Hall until he went to Australia. In 1904, Canon Barnett wrote: "Dr Gregory was intimately known to me during many years... He is both able and humble, persistent in all his work, and very tactful, conscientious, and honourable, most agreeable as a fellow-worker, and generous of his powers. He made many friends among all classes, who still hold him in affectionate memory and are proud when they hear of his great achievements."

About thirty years later, he revisited the ground of a favourite Toynbee Hall excursion. In the summer of 1917, he had undertaken war work at the Air Board in London, lodging in the quiet of Torrington Square, and there his son had joined him for a week while studying in the Mineral Gallery at the Natural History Museum and meeting several of his father's old colleagues. For Sunday, Gregory offered his son a visit to the National Physical Laboratory or to Leith Hill, and his son chose Leith Hill. The train put them down at Holmwood, whence they walked up to Coldharbour and on to Leith Hill, the 965 ft height of which is added to by the tower. Being introduced to the surrounding Lower Greensand beds, seeing the lovely hills and woods - deserted in the stress of war - and hearing stories of the Toynbee Hall walks was for the son like looking through a window into a treasured part of his father's bachelor days.


In 1891 he made his first journey outside Europe, to the Rocky Mountains and the Great Basin of the Western United States for geological purposes. He had the company of his elder sister Anne who was always ready with help and encouragement to further his plans.

Late next year his services were lent by the Museum to a lavishly planned expedition expecting to explore the northern part of what is now Kenya. The expedition collapsed and came to nothing, by which time he was a very sick man. W W A Fitzgerald of the staff of the British East Africa Company was camped on the Tana at the time, and later said: “He arrived with only one man after the break-up of the expedition... and I certainly would not have been surprised if, after what he had gone through, he had returned at once to England. He then came down to examine the country between the Tana and the Sabaki [Galana] rivers, but the next day collapsed with dysentery and fever; when he recovered I expected he would have made up his mind to go straight down to Mombasa and home, but his first words were, ‘I think I shall start an expedition to get up to Lake Baringo.' "2

In March 1893 he found himself at Mombasa, with greatly impaired health but with six months of leave still in hand. For financial backing he had only his own modest resources and his museum pay• "My friends in Mombasa," he wrote, "declared that both the time and force were insufficient” for what he meant to do. But "I re-checked my estimates of time and cost. I could find nothing wrong with them." Gratefully accepting invaluable local advice and disregarding gloomy local forecasts he quickly organised his expedition and set out on March 23rd. The little caravan consisted only of forty Africans and himself; he could find no white man to join him and share the many tasks of command, which would have left him much more time to devote to science. Afterwards he used to laugh and say the journey was at any rate a record in the matter of expense.

It may also have been a record in speed for a journey of this sort, for he overcame difficulties and covered the ground so fast he marched 1650 miles in six months less two days. When his splendid headman, Omari, was asked how he had got on, he replied, "Very well, but lots of hard work, very hard work." At a meeting of the Royal Geographical Society, Captain F D Lugard, later Lord Lugard, said: "Perhaps few can appreciate more than I can (having travelled the country myself) the pluck shown by Dr. Gregory. I think that nobody has ever been through Masailand without at least 100 or 130 armed men. Dr Gregory, with no previous knowledge of the country, found himself left in the lurch on the coast, and determined not to abandon his enterprise and confess to failure ... He went up through the most dangerous part of the country, about the time of the rains, which meant that he must encounter large numbers of the Masai, who come down to graze their flocks at that season. He went from Naivasha, the headquarters of the Masai, into the Laikipia country, where no one had passed before him, and from which Mr. Thomson had to fly for his life after getting to the lower slopes only of Kenya. Dr. Gregory nevertheless passed boldly through Laikipia, and turned down through Kikuyu, as dangerous a country as you could find in Africa, without any fighting, and managed to make friends with the people."3

No wonder that the first white man whose outpost he reached on return ran out in relief to welcome him, calling out, "Oh, Dr. Gregory, is that you?" Thus was the news given to the explorer that his thesis had been successful and had earned him in absentia a doctorate of science.

He had explored the immense trough which he named the Great Rift Valley from south of Lake Naivasha to Lake Baringo, studied its structure, its lava-fields, and those of the neighbouring highlands, and examined the ancient glaciers of Mount Kenya of which he came near to making the first ascent. On return to England he gave some of the scientific results in a series of papers ranging from physical geography to anthropology, and from mountaineering and glacial geology to the parasites of malaria. Meanwhile his colleagues worked out the collections of animals and plants he had brought back; new species abounded. A description of the journey forms the first half of his book The Great Rift Yalley (1896), the second half dealing with geology, natural history, anthropology, and future prospects of the country. In 1968 it was reprinted in a "Library of African Studies".

The Oxford English Dictionary gives the first use of the term "rift valley" as that by J W Gregory in the Geographical Journal, 1894. There he wrote: “…. one of those valleys of subsidence with long, steep, parallel walls which Professor Suess has called 'Graben'. The famous Yosemite valley may be taken as a well-known type of these 'rift valleys,' as they may conveniently be called." He had visited the Yosemite valley of Californa in 1891. One result of his further travelling in East Africa, in 1919, was his book The Rift Valleys and Geology of East Africa, on page 18 of which he mentions that "For this type of valley I suggested the name of Rift Valley, using the term 'rift' in the sense of a relatively narrow space due to subsidence between parallel fractures. Such valleys are known in many parts of the world, but that of East Africa may be justly called the Great Rift Valley, as it extends from Northern Palestine to Southern Africa." Not long after his death, his widow wrote; "In choosing the geological feature of the 'rift valley' for the title of the book [of l896], he had no expectation of giving a name to a considerable tract of the earth's surface. The name however caught on, and was adopted so quickly and universally that even those who remember the circumstances almost feel it has been always so named, or at least dates back to a ripe antiquity."

After his mother died in 1894, and after both his sisters had married, the family gave up the house at Clapton and he settled in rooms in John Street, a flat in one of the pleasant old eighteenth century houses still remaining round about Gray's Inn. When one of his sisters visited him here, the landlady was thankful to ask her help; every time she asked her lodger what he would like for his evening meal, he replied "mutton chop': The sister explained that meant, "Give me what you like and don't bother me about food': The landlady acted accordingly, to mutual satisfaction.

In 1895 he married Audrey Chaplin and set up house on Campden Hill at 3 Aubrey Road, one of the attractive little old country houses left intact on their hill, surrounded by the encroaching tide of London building. It was - for him -- within convenient walking distance of the Natural History Museum.

Characteristic of his talent for using every opportunity, in the interval between the two African expeditions in 1893, while convalescing from severe illness, he had learnt to handle a native canoe, taught by "my friend the son of the Pokomo chief.” This accomplishment was put to practical use when he packed a young wife and camping kit into a Canadian canoe, and the pair enjoyed delightful but suitably economical holidays, touring English and French waterways. In accordance with his unswerving principle of never taking an unnecessary risk, a rule always obtained in the family that no one was allowed in the canoe unless they could swim.

In 1896 he went as naturalist with the expedition described by Sir Martin Conway, later Lord Conway of Allington, in The First Crossing of Spitsbergen. "How valuable was the companionship of the author of the Great Rift Valley of Africa, how useful was his experience, how helpful his energy, readers of that fascinating description of a most plucky and fruitful journey will readily appreciate." When about to sail from Tromsö, "The ship, as the day advanced, became a mere pandemonium ... All sorts of people came to say good-bye ... The deck was crowded. Glasses clinked. Every one was in the way of everyone else ... In the midst of the shindy, Gregory digested geological papers from various journals, cross-questioned anyone that came handy about Spitsbergen birds or the Norwegian vocabulary, and went on piling up information generally. 'You read always,' said the French gentleman to. him. 'Yes,' was the merry reply;'you see I am young and have a lot to learn.' " At sea, "Cold breezes and showers drove us to seek employment below … He was actively employed measuring the details of four hundred specimens of a bone from the head of cod-fish. He said the pastime was excellent." Climbing a hill, "Gregory went ahead like a steam-engine, whilst I did the puffing and blowing behind." When they had set up camp, "Late at night a shot was fired from the steamer -- at some bird, I suppose. Gregory, half asleep, leaped up. He thought it was the Masai coming to loot his camp." When a message had to be carried, "Gregory started for his thirty-mile bog-tramp to Advent Bay. He went forth in the gayest fashion, saying it was some time since he had walked fifty miles at a stretch, but he thought this thirty might be counted as an equivalent, which indeed was true."5

He retained this singular indifference to his surroundings; he could work with the clatter of a typewriter in his room, or in a crowded train or bus. A chair and a steady table for writing and "What more could anyone want?", he used to say. He was one of those men who are habitually well served, and later he was sometimes surprised to find a table had materialized in unlikely surroundings, provided by someone's kindly thought "for the Professor's papers”. He loathed one noise, then common -- whistling; and he was fidgeted by the idle tapping of a foot on the door.

Travelling with him, though an arduous business, was something of a revelation, both of the possibilities of travel and adventure, and of his own character. His joyous zest combined with knowledge, and his unselfishness over both small and great matters made him an ideal travelling companion; indeed, companions had to be on the alert, to ensure that he was not defrauding himself if supplies were short or comforts lacking.

In 1899 he employed his vacation in a trip to the West Indies, accompanied by his wife. He visited among others the small island of Anguilla to collect bones of fossil vertebrates. There was little regular communication with the island, and he chartered a small sloop with negro master and mate, excellent boatmen but navigating entirely by rule of thumb, without even a compass. The course was from Antigua to Barbuda, where a day was spent seeing the island, sheltering during the midday heat in an old shooting lodge, unfurnished but built of stone and exquisitely cool. A start for Anguilla was made in the evening; but the ship's master, only knowing his sea road direct from Antigua to Anguilla, instead of proceeding straight to Anguilla retraced the journey of the day before, and it was not till he had picked up the lights of St. John's, Antigua, that he set a course for Anguilla. When the tropic sun rose there was a very small sloop among very large waves, and no prospect of port. The ship was so small its miniature deck was only just wide enough to plant a deck chair across it. Once a white-crested wave broke with a rush of green water over the canted deck. Gregory's chair was swept from under him, and only his own presence of mind and the few inches of the ship's combing averted an incident of man overboard. Towards evening the island came into view, but the wind failed, and whenever the steersman was asked how much further to harbour his invariable reply was "two-and-a-half tacks': Actually the tacks were countless, and the passengers finally landed well after dark, sun-scorched, damp, and excessively hungry; but of one mind that the ardours and discomforts of the voyage had been more than compensated for by the wonderful colour and lighting effects, both day and night, on that tropic sea of enchantment viewed almost at its own level from the deck of the sloop, a revelation after the same sea viewed from the cliff-like height of ocean-going steamers, and the superior exhilaration in the buoyancy of that cockleshell, the sloop.

In the autumn of 1899 Gregory decided to apply for the Professorship of Geology and Mineralogy in Melbourne University, a new chair. It was a very serious decision that he had to make, especially for so devoted a son of London. Promotion at the Museum, however, appeared to be unlikely, and he was considering the advisability of being called to the bar and specialising in a scientific legal practice when the opening offered for geology in Australia; he applied and was appointed. He always retained the warmest feelings for the Museum which had been his introduction to a scientific career and for his colleagues there; and on visits to London he could always count on the use of a writing table and the freedom of the library for consulting works on scientific subjects.

He had done much good work at the Museum. Someone had been needed to work on the fossil bryozoa and corals, and he had made these especially his own. He published many papers on them, on echinoidea and other subjects, and wrote three catalogues, standard works of reference, describing and defining the Jurassic and Cretaceous bryozoa. He was a most strenuous and rapid worker, and ever generous in giving good value for payment received, so that when the Museum allowed extra leave of absence it was assured of his overtaking his ordinary Museum work; also he was under bond to hand over everything he collected during the leave and brought home, and to this he scrupulously adhered.

The Australian long vacation between sessions is during our midwinter. Early in 1900 he left England to begin a residence in Australia which was to exceed even his cheerful expectations. There is perhaps no gratification in human life greater than a young man's first independent command, when that man has talent and character, confidence in himself, and the knowledge that he can hold down the job.

The Geological Department had to be built from the foundation; laboratories and equipment of any kind were lacking. The prime essentials of a school, however, keen and intelligent students, were not long in assembling. Lectures and laboratory work were organized, and fortnightly excursions for field-work instituted. It sets those days back into the perspective of history to recall talk in the University of chaperons for the lady students on the excursions. Such speculations would never have occurred to Gregory, experienced in Toynbee excursions, while Mrs. Gregory thought and roundly asserted that the Professor was perfectly competent to chaperon any number of young women. The subject faded out, and excursions began and continued on modern lines. "In two years," a colleague, Dr. Martin, wrote four years later, "he had made geology one of the most important and popular subjects in the University… As Professor of Geology he took a principal part in the organisation of the School of Mining Engineering. During the last two years he has, in addition to his university work, entirely re-organised the Geological Survey of Victoria for the State Government. Gregory's energy was the admiration and envy of us all, but he was such a good colleague that I don't think any of us envied him his success."

Students and professor were soon on those terms with one another which Gregory was to maintain for thirty years with many generations of undergraduates. He had an accessibility of mind and serenity of temper, valuable in every walk of life but of special value in a teacher. He had a talent for friendship; he continued making new friends all his life, but never forgot an old one. With his accurate memory for faces and facts he could accost a friend or acquaintance after the lapse of years, and easily and smoothly resume intercourse. One of his old students has recorded how, "On meeting him after an absence the smile that transfigured his face gave joy and strength more than he knew." His friends were not only numerous but of the most astonishing diversity, white, black and yellow, from one end to the other of the social scale, from peers of the realm to "the many swagsmen [travellers on foot in the bush with their roll or "swag" on their shoulder] and prospectors, who while we have shared a billy of tea on the roadside or on the mountain track, have given me the benefit of their intimate acquaintance with the back blocks of Victoria."6

A distinguished friend once told his gratified wife that her husband was "that uncommon person, a man who really knows his job." Besides being willing and eager to share his wide and thorough knowledge of geology with anyone interested, he implanted almost unconsciously something of his own enthusiasm for knowledge, for truth, for hard -- even gruelling hard -- work, and for that team work which he practised and promoted all his life in the daily work of departmental organization and teaching. He was ever "a bonny fechter" when need arose and when he had at heart views or plans to promote or oppose; but however things went, whether to his liking or not, he carried on and never nursed a grievance. Sometimes when response came to him of gratitude or appreciation, his intimates were amused by his look of surprise, expressed by the sudden opening to their fullest extent of his remarkable blue eyes.

The long vacation of Christmas 1901 was spent travelling and collecting with a party of students around Lake Eyre in the north of South Australia, as described in his second well-known book, The Dead Heart of Australia; and again the title came to be an everyday term. Midsummer was not the ideal time for a hot climate, but then was the only holiday long enough to cause no break in the university term. The party returned in excellent health and spirits.

In 1902 he agreed to reorganize the Geological Survey, which meant undertaking a second practically whole-time job. It was made possible without encroaching on university teaching by careful adjustment of teaching times, by using time, his own or others, in the best combinations and to the best advantage, and by his power of work. The duties of the Survey led him all over Victoria, adding to his geological knowledge and enriching his lectures. To the end of his career he kept his lectures up to date through his travels and his continued search for knowledge. A picked body of his students in Victoria further benefited by staffing a survey camp during a month of the long vacation, the maps made being afterwards printed by the Geological Survey as their ordinary sheets. In at least one of the summer camps in the bush, the men had to shake out their clothes in the morning to dislodge any poisonous snakes.

On visits to Survey camps and other geological journeys, he sometimes travelled by a postman's cart, a light two-wheeled trap and single horst, the competent driver and horse doing a forty- mile stage in the day and back the next day; then the horse had two days' rest while a second one was taken out. Some settlements were served by coaches, and along the rough mountain tracks of the Gippsland forest country there were wonderful exhibitions of driving, swinging round sharp corners as the road circled the end of a narrow gorge, and the bush track offered ruts over a foot deep. The driver and even the conductor were something of personages locally, and the drivers could claim kin with sea captains in a certain likeness to the hearty manners of the sea, and the ready response and acceptance of responsibility of the master mariner.

During such a journey on which he had taken his wife, he had arranged to spend three days at a gold-mine to work out the geology. Night brought no slackening in the thunder of the batteries of stamps which continued throughout it, smashing the ore, making the ground shake, and rendering night hideous for one light sleeper, who by morning was a wreck. Regretfully Gregory broke it to the management that owing to an unexpected -- and unexplained - change in plan he would have to finish his work there that day and push on to his next port of call. The manager was deeply disappointed. Shortly he returned to ask, "Would it affect your decision if we stopped the stamps tonight?" That night blissful silence fell, the stamp-mills lost a night's output, and a wife slept like the dead.

The homogeneity of Victoria, its ideals and standards of conduct and education which embraced the whole population, the friendly, family feeling, perhaps only possible where numbers are still small, and the remarkable honesty all delighted him and satisfied his strong sense of citizenship. At first he wondered whether on long geological walks to burden himself with a camera -- a weight in those days -- with probably a heavy bag of specimens to carry home too; or whether to take photographs early in the excursion, park the camera by the wayside, and collect it on his return. He decided to risk the camera, expecting to lose it but hoping to get good work out of it first. He always left a note on it saying it would be called for, to ensure that some well-intentioned person would not escort it as a stray to the police station. Sometimes he would notice the footprints of a passer-by who had walked up to it. It was never lost.

On one visit up country, with an early train to catch, he had
arranged to leave at some unearthly hour of the morning. The boots was in charge and served his breakfast, but when Gregory wished to settle the bill neither knew the amount owing, and the boots entirely declined any financial dealings as outside his province. It seemed a deadlock. There were several Melbourne visitors in the hotel, and the boots asked was there no one among them whom he knew. Well, there was Mr. X., said Gregory, he knew him slightly. "Oh," said the boots, much pleased with so simple a solution, "He can settle the bill, and you'll meet him in Melbourne and pay him back." Gregory had doubts, but being new to the country thought the boots might know best. Also he wanted to catch his train. Returned to Melbourne he asked X. what he owed him for that hotel bill. "Oh," exclaimed Mr. X., "It was you whose hotel bill I paid. The boots couldn't remember the name, but I thought I'd better pay it, and that the man, whoever he was, would remember mine." After that, before an early start, Gregory settled the bill overnight.

It may have been gathered he was a good walker. So were Australians: yet Melbourne students sang,
Here's to Prof. Gregory who walks at his ease,
While all his pore students go bung at the knees.

To join him on his way to or from work was to be sure of a burst of vigorous exercise. In his youth in London he reckoned on moving at the athletic speed of 5 mph. Even in latter years he could outwalk and outpace most men.

A study of the Mount Lyell Mines and the adjacent country was the main purpose of visits to Tasmania, and resulted in a book on the mining field but nearly cost him his life. While rock climbing he grazed the ball of his thumb, the scratch must have absorbed some acute infection, and in a couple of days the right arm was affected to the elbow. Fortunately the mine doctors were practised surgeons and - in days before antibiotics - operated at once, while a director of the company rushed up by special train to ensure that everything possible was being done. By the time his wife could reach that remote spot in the mountains, Gregory looked like a wraith, and his arm to the elbow was nothing but an elaborate system of drainage tubes; but the poison was under control, and though the tubes and painful dressings continued for weeks, good surgery combined with his recuperative powers and sound constitution triumphed. His arm and health made a perfect recovery, and the stiffened thumb responded to massage and was also finally restored.

The long vacation of l903-4 was spent in New Zealand, attending a meeting of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science and travelling the length of the Islands from the Bluffs to Auckland. An excursion was made to the west coast of the South Island where the natural scenery is wonderful and unique; where tree ferns and tropical vegetation flourish within a mile or two of the glacier snouts, and scarlet rata contrasts with the blue crevasses and white snows of the high mountains.

Early in 1904 he began his fifth university session at Melbourne, in the full swing of work and enjoyment of what he delightedly described as "a geologically unexplored continent beginning at the back garden." Yet he did not mean to spend the rest of his life at the antipodes; the call of London was too strong. Almost incessantly he missed the great scientific libraries: the Royal Society -- of which he had been elected a Fellow in l90l - housed in dignified seclusion; that doorway opening direct from the roar and bustle of Piccadilly into the exquisite quiet of the Geological Society's rooms, to which he homed with all the familiar pleasure of a son of the house; the reading room of the British Museum; the Royal Geographical Society with its maps and beautifully lit map-room; the Patent Office library, and many other havens of learning; the Athenaeum Club with its literary and learned traditions where the interests and talk included every profession and subject. But now a threat declared itself to overshadow all else: his wife's constant and increasing ill health. Loth as he was to leave Australia, longer residence there involved a risk he would not take. To him return home had become imperative.

At this time, a Chair of Geology was founded in Glasgow University. A friend expressed confidence that Gregory's reputation was high enough for him to be able to count on the appointment if he chose to apply. His printed application is dated 17th May, 1904. Geologists may like to know his supporting referees were Professor J W Judd, Canon T G Bonney, and Emeritus Professor Eduard Suess of Vienna. Gregory stipulated that he could not begin till November, to let him finish the 1904 session in Melbourne and give that University time to appoint a successor for its next session. Though he was a resident Australian for less than five years, he always retained his feeling for country and people and his friendships with them; about twenty-four years later he was still corresponding with some of them on developments in their problems. As these pages are being revised, word comes from Melbourne that the Department of Geology has moved into a new, well-equipped building, in which it is proposed to name one of the teaching laboratories the "Gregory Laboratory".

In Glasgow he found himself engaged on almost a repeat of the Melbourne experiences. The geology class began from scratch in 1904 with twelve students; by the time he retired in 1929 it had increased to over four hundred. At the outset, as in Melbourne, the propriety was questioned of letting the sexes share excursions. Queen Margaret College had been incorporated in 1893 as the women's department of the University for arts and medicine, holding separate classes for the women. Gregory believed that this was against the interests of women's education. When he was organizing Saturday excursions for geological field-work, he was waylaid in the quad by an administrator who asked would he be willing to run separate excursions for the women students. He replied that before answering he would like to step over to his department and look up the class register. "Whatever has that got to do with it?" the man from the office asked. "Well, I have two women students," Gregory explained. "One has a doctor's certificate exempting her from excursions, and one is pretty; and I can't remember which is which."

He heard no more about separate excursions. The point was unlikely to arise for the lectures because, the University being 453 years old, times for lectures were well booked and Geology had to be content with 4.30 pm for the ordinary class, known in the Department as "Part 1", and the still more unlikely hour of 5.30 for the advanced class, Part 2. It was a matter of opinion whether this was any worse than the 8 am start made by Greek and Electrical Engineering. It bore hard on students who had a railway journey to reach home after 6.30; and one may spare a thought for the Professor who had to lecture regularly from 4.30 till 6.30.

His son to his lasting regret took the Part 1 class while his father was abroad. He has a vivid recollection of after his father's return going into his room and hearing the sounds of him and the Part 1 class in harmony. The clear voice flowing smoothly on was accompanied by the little noises of a large class kept happily on the stretch, intently following and note-taking, quickly responding to the lecturer with here a ripple of amusement and there a note of appreciation or surprise, exploding once into a gale of laughter. The daily press reports of a Royal Commission then sitting were making much of the miners' leader's attacks on the Duke of Hamilton for being paid a shilling a ton royalty for his coal without having to go down the pit to bring it up. In his lecture, Gregory had recounted some valuable scientific work done by an earlier Duke and had added simply, "So even dukes have their uses."

Very early in Gregory's Glasgow years his wife, standing also in this room during a lecture, heard the formidable protest made by students dragging their feet on the floor, an astonishing noise when you hear it first: her husband had ill-advisedly referred to "the English army," and had been corrected. The Part 2 lectures were magical, the highlight of a University course. And the most exciting part of them was the section on mining geology. As his demonstrator in mineralogy, Miss Neilson, said, "You wanted to get every word down.” It described different types of mineral deposit all over the world, the elucidation of how the deposit had been formed, and how that knowledge bore on mining the deposit. This was told by a man who had visited most of the deposits he described, who had explored many of them geologically, had at least contributed to understanding them, and could tell you out of his head where to turn up the current explanation of the field. All this was enlivened by touches of local colour, as noticed by a visitor in the great days of the field, yet retaining a grip on the classification of the world-wide occurrence of the mineral. One returned reluctantly from these enthralling scientific adventures to the murk of 6.30 pm. on a Scottish night.

After two years of absence abroad, in 1919 Gregory found the Part 1 class enlarged in size and relaxed in discipline; but as the term advanced peace was restored. His son, having seen how rough a Glasgow class can be on even a first-rate lecturer, asked his father however he had overcome the disorder. After the usual short pause to think out the answer, Gregory replied, "I think they came to realise I didn't like it." No doubt this was an accurate diagnosis. What a picture it gives of the bond that formed between listeners and himself! Instead of heartless persecution, affectionate support developed and determination to hear the lectures. One of his students, J V Harrison, wrote, "As a teacher he was supreme and students thronged to hear him."

He was supported by able lecturers and demonstrators. Throughout his years in Glasgow his second in command was Dr. A W Tyrrell, an excellent lecturer and latterly the outstanding British petrologist of the time. To him fell the running of the department when his chief was abroad, though that rarely happened during term-time. Lecturers in palaeontology included Dr. W R Smellie at the end of the First World War and Dr. John Weir from the 'twenties, retiring in September 1961 as Senior Lecturer in Geology. Miss Neilson was an admirable teacher to small groups of students with hand specimens; her drastic warning of one of the truths of mineralogy leaps to mind, "Any mineral can be any colour." Further study may blur the edges of that pronouncement, besides finding support for it; but in any case it is a sound starting point.

The part of the classes to stand out most in the minds of Gregory's students was probably the field-work. It was different from the run of university work. First, waiting at the rendezvous for the Professor to arrive. If he came in trousers, an easy walk lay ahead. If he had on knee breeches, you would have to exert yourself. But if he was wearing puttees, the storm-cones were hoisted and you knew an arduous day lay ahead, ankle deep in the wintry "Land of the mountain and the flood, Land of brown heath and shaggy wood," while you were led among striking geological sections and rocks and structures, and learnt something of how to interpret what lay below from what you could see on the surface. Best of all were the Meal Monday weekends. Tradition has it that two students from the Highlands were noticed to be always absent from their classes on the first Monday in February and in March. Enquiry showed that they used those weekends to travel home and replenish the bag of oatmeal on which they mainly lived. Ever since, these Meal Mondays have been University holidays. The second weekend was invaluable for getting to grips geologically with some such area as Bute or around Blair Atholl. In the evening, Gregory could often be got to talk about his travels, or the opening up of Africa in which he had taken part, sometimes as the London correspondent of the influential monthly magazines. What astonished his son when he was in the class was that this history and these stories were new to him. They were not to be heard at home. His father plucked them fresh from the store in his memory, often from thirty years ago, for a fresh audience. Besides, to the end of his life, he had such zest and interest in the present that he was little given to reminiscence.

For the first Meal Monday weekend, if the snow was adequate, he might take a few senior students skiing - with half a dozen pairs of skis that had been stored under the lecture theatre -- to an upland moor near Glasgow or to the Highlands. He was an early enthusiast for Scottish skiing, one-time president of the Scottish Ski Club, and encouraged the organizing of snow reports from the best spots. Since photography is valuable in geology, he designed a beautiful little dark room for staff and senior students in the tiny space under a stairs. The stairs led to the gloomy basements of the mock gothic building, used as laboratories and forming half the department. A long-awaited new Geological Institute, on the other side of University Avenue, has its official opening in April 1977.

He extended his walking powers by frequent use of a bicycle, often taking it in a train to save time in dull areas. He explored the Scottish west coast in a 27 ft. cutter, seeing not only the geology but the beauty of otherwise inaccessible islands and straits, inlets and lochs.

From Museum days on, he gave expert evidence many times. The expert scientific witness is employed to elucidate the truth and must adhere to his own settled convictions. When asked to give evidence Gregory always studied the affair most carefully, and not unless he was convinced that the side approaching him was geologically in the right did he agree; this, with his great stored knowledge of geology, acute reasoning powers, unusually fine memory, and unshakable nerve, made him stand like a rock in court. A heartening spectacle, the old tag made manifest, "Magna est veritas et praevalebit."

His first case turned on whether china clay is a mineral. Though a young man, he was asked to give evidence because most of the recognised authorities were appearing for the other side. In the face of that formidable opposition, he enabled his side to prove in court that china clay owes its character to deep-seated activity, not to surface weathering like most clays, and therefore, for the purposes of a disputed agreement, it was a mineral. A spectator in another case who watched him under cross-examination for some hours remembered how considered but clear and decided his answers were. In particular, at one tense moment, all the gowned and bewigged gentlemen seemed waiting, expectant for something. Gregory paused for a moment, then gave his answer, the tension snapped, and a laugh went round the court. The listener, hidden in the shadows of a high gallery, knew that in that little pause Gregory had looked ahead, seen the entanglement preparing by the opposing barrister, and eluded it. In general, when he saw what Counsel was embarking on wringing out of him, he would simply produce the required information. "You save time," he once said, "and incidentally get a reputation for frankness. You can be sure they will get it out of you in the end; that's their job, and they are expert at it." Lord Findlay once expressed the opinion to a colleague that expert witnesses were useless to a case in court. "Except," he added, "one of 'em - a Scotchman from Glasgow called Gregory."

He had an extreme liking and tolerance for his fellow men and interest in them. He was much more inclined to talk on their subjects than on his own because he really was more interested in what they had to tell him than wishful to speak of his own doings or interests. Many even of his friends therefore had a surprisingly partial knowledge of his achievements and occupations. Although he was a man of strong and enduring affections, both for friends and family, none but his intimates would have divined the depth of his feeling for his domestic circle or fondness for his home. An acquaintance once remarked that he might almost have been a Moslem trained in a rigid etiquette of never speaking of ladies outside their own family circle. His daughter was sometimes amused to be greeted with uncontrollable surprise by some friend who thought he knew Gregory but was quite unaware of his owning a family. It was an instance of his habit of keeping his interests in watertight compartments.

His gentleness of manner was the outcome of a perfect temper combined with a complete lack of self-consciousness or conceit; but that gentle, sometimes hesitating manner, simulating the effect of a shyness that he did not feel, covered neither timidity nor a "meek" disposition; occasionally people reckoning on its doing so were more than surprised. He was ever ready when challenged to join battle joyfully and to support his convictions in vigorous debate. Sir John Flett wrote: "My experience of a long friendship with Gregory was that it was very unwise to assume that you knew more of any subject than Gregory did; it was dangerous to differ from him in opinion, as in the quietest possible manner he would produce some devastating facts, well attested but not widely known, that would shatter premature hypotheses."

Nearly everyone has some mental blind spot; his was inability to speak foreign tongues. He could read the geological literature of many languages, but a colloquial knowledge to extend his communications with foreigners, particularly French and German scientific colleagues, would have given him very great pleasure. He once said with heartfelt regret, "The time I've wasted trying to learn to speak French and German!" He had, however, the talent of communicating with his fellow men without articulate speech, or of attaining his object without it.

He looked on the main function of science as ministering to man's welfare and happiness. Great as was his enthusiasm for science and his love of it, his fundamental interest was humanity, hence the interest in applied science and the geographical studies. He vigorously defended and explained the White Australia policy. He was chosen head of expeditions to Cyrenaica (1908) and Southern Angola (1912) to report on their suitability for Jewish colonization. Two of his books deal with inter-racial and emigration problems. He served on the Calcutta University Commission of 1917-19, and on the way home revisited Kenya to report on water supply. Other journeys abounded, adding to his power as a teacher. His never-ceasing activity produced twenty books and over three hundred papers. His interest in the structure of the earth led him in 1922 through Burma to south-western China, accompanied by his son, on a l500-mile walk which they described in To the Alps of Chinese Tibet, each writing half. Interest in the structure of the earth also drew him to the Andes in 1932 on his last expedition. Long before, when asked if he had ever been to South America, he replied that he had twice arranged to go there but each time an international disaster had stopped him, so he had better not arrange a visit a third time lest some cataclysm took place. In rapids on the river Urubamba in Peru, on June 2nd a canoe overturned and he was drowned.

Many scientific honours had been bestowed on him--prizes, medals, honorary memberships, degrees, honorary and otherwise, presidencies. He was proudest of all, he once said, of the unofficial title conferred on him by the miners of Ballarat, "Our Professor".

A memorial to him, "Scientist, explorer, teacher," a profile in deep relief by Walter Marsden, FRBS, is in Woodham Walter church, near Maldon, Essex, where his wife and her parents lie in the churchyard.

On summing up the twenty-five years in Glasgow, Dr. Tyrrell wrote: "Professor Gregory speedily established himself in Scotland as a great teacher, administrator, and researcher ... His genial and informal manner, his fascinating lecturing, his complete accessibility and readiness to discuss any subject at any time, endeared him to a generation of students. Each successive geology class fell under his spell as its members gradually realised and came to reverence the charm and versatility, vast range of interests, and world-wide reputation of the Professor. Under his guidance and inspiration a Glasgow geological school grew up, the fame of which was spread by its research work, and by the young men trained in it, who went forth on their professional errands into all the earth, preaching with enthusiasm the geological gospel according to Gregory ... His relations with his staff were never less than entirely harmonious. He was always a fountain of inspiration and a reservoir of power to his juniors, because of his tremendous reputation, his vast erudition, his prodigious energy, his encyclopaedic knowledge of geology and cognate subjects, and not least, his character and personality as a man."8

And Professor P G H Boswell wrote of him: "By his travels, and by the regional and tectonic studies connected with them, Gregory did much to counteract the parochial tendency of British geology during the past quarter-century; no other British geologist achieved such a world-wide reputation, or had such a large circle of friends in every continent ... Viewing his multifarious achievements in the light of their difficulty of accomplishment, we realise that his apparent diffidence of manner concealed a tenacity of purpose and hid a mind to which fear was unknown."9


REFERENCES

1 Geographical Journal, vol. IV, 1894, p. 516.
2 Ibid. p. 518.
3 Ibid. pp. 516-7.
4 Ibid. p. 295.
5 Sir William Martin Conway, The First Crossing of Spitsbergen (J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd.) 1897, pp. 9, 36, 34, 32, 61, 127.
6 J. W. Gregory, The Geography of Australia, Historical, Physical and Political (Whitcombe & Tombs), preface.
7 Nature, 25 June 1932, pp. 930-1.
8 Journal of the West of Scotland Agricultural College Former Students' Club, No. 13, 1932, pp. 39-40. Professor Gregory was long a Governor of the College.
9 Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society, No. 1, 1932.

Brief estimates of Gregory's scientific achievements, made at the time of his death, are contained in 7 and 9 above; in the obituary by Dr. G W Tyrrell in Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society, vol 89, pt 3, 1933, pp. xci-xciv; and in Nature of 27 August 1932.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The publishers or copyright owners of works 5, 7, 8 and 9 listed above are warmly thanked for their kind permission to include extracts.

END
Facts
  • 27 JAN 1864 - Birth - ; Bow, London, UK
  • 1932 - Death - ; Drowned in rapids of Urubamba River, near Megantomi Falls, Northern Peru. Memorial in Woodham Walter Church, Essex
  • BET 1874 AND 1878 - Fact -
  • BET 1879 AND 1887 - Fact -
  • BET 1887 AND 1900 - Fact -
  • BET 1891 AND 1899 - Fact -
  • BET 1900 AND 1904 - Fact -
  • BET 8 JUN 1904 AND 1926 - Fact -
Ancestors
   
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Family Group Sheet - Child
PARENT (M) John James Gregory
Birth
Death
Marriageto Jane Lewis
Father?
Mother?
PARENT (F) Jane Lewis
Birth
Death
Marriageto John James Gregory
Father?
Mother?
CHILDREN
FAnne Gregory
Birth
Death
FEleanor Gregory
Birth
Death
MJohn Walter (Jack) Gregory , F.R.S., D.Sc. Lond
Birth27 JAN 1864Bow, London, UK
Death1932Drowned in rapids of Urubamba River, near Megantomi Falls, Northern Peru. Memorial in Woodham Walter Church, Essex
MarriageJUN 1895to Adriana (Audrey) Chaplin
Family Group Sheet - Spouse
PARENT (M) John Walter (Jack) Gregory , F.R.S., D.Sc. Lond
Birth27 JAN 1864Bow, London, UK
Death1932 Drowned in rapids of Urubamba River, near Megantomi Falls, Northern Peru. Memorial in Woodham Walter Church, Essex
MarriageJUN 1895to Adriana (Audrey) Chaplin
FatherJohn James Gregory
MotherJane Lewis
PARENT (F) Adriana (Audrey) Chaplin
Birth26 APR 1872
Death15 DEC 1945 Woodham Walter, Essex (at Bassetts, part of which is in Woodham Walter and part in Little Baddow)
MarriageJUN 1895to John Walter (Jack) Gregory , F.R.S., D.Sc. Lond
FatherAyrton Chaplin , Rev
MotherEdith Elizabeth Pyne
CHILDREN
FUrsula Joan Gregory
Birth29 JUL 1896
Death17 JUL 1959
MChristopher John (Kit) Gregory
Birth11 JUL 1900
Death1977Little Baddow, Essex
Marriage30 APR 1932to Marion Eastty Black at Woodham Walter Church
Evidence
[S12758] Ann Gregory (Mendell)'s copy of 'A short account of the Families of Chaplin and Skinner........' with annotations by Ayrton Chaplin & others
[S3841] The James, Pyne, Dixon Family Book, compiled by Alicia C Percival, publ London 1977
Descendancy Chart
Adriana (Audrey) Chaplin b: 26 APR 1872 d: 15 DEC 1945
Ursula Joan Gregory b: 29 JUL 1896 d: 17 JUL 1959
Christopher John (Kit) Gregory b: 11 JUL 1900 d: 1977
Marion Eastty Black b: 3 MAY 1902 d: AUG 1998
Elizabeth Gregory b: 22 OCT 1933 d: 1938