He was born 9 December 1761 in Spring Gardens, London, the second surviving son of Thomas Penn and his wife, Lady Juliana Fermor Penn, fourth daughter of Thomas, first Earl of Pomfret. He studied at Magdalen College, Oxford, but did not complete his degree. He then became an assistant clerk in the war department.
In the period from 1788 Penn played a part in the development of veterinary education. A supporter of the Odiham Society, he met Charles Benoît Vial de Sainbel who was in England for the second time to try to set up a veterinary school, such as existed at Lyon; and whose profile was raised when he was asked to dissect the famous racehorse Eclipse. Penn ran a successful campaign over a few years to implement his own version of Sainbel's original scheme. The Veterinary College, London opened its doors to pupils at the beginning of 1792.
He died at Stoke Park on 28 September 1844.
Penn, fluent in French, Greek, Latin and Hebrew, was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and wrote several books dealing with Biblical criticism and published a number of competent translations of ancient Greek works, including a critical revision of the English version of the New Testament. He also wrote some theological works particularly related to Biblical chronology (past and future) and the early history of post-Flood mankind. In 1833 he wrote the Life of Admiral Sir William Penn, on his great-grandfather.
A Comparative Estimate
His major work as a scriptural geologist was A Comparative Estimate of the Mineral and Mosaical Geologies, published in 1822. Penn added a supplement in 1823 in response to Buckland's theory on Kirkdale Cave, and then revised and enlarged it to two volumes in 1825 in response to criticisms. Like most Scriptural geologists, Penn, whose name became indelibly associated with Scriptural geology, participated only transiently with it during his career. For example, between the production of his book when he was 62 and his death in 1844 he focused on philological scholarship.
Attitude toward geology
Penn wrote that "The science of Geology … has this remarkable character above all the preceding physical sciences; that, it not only conducts the intelligence, like them, to the discernment of the God of Nature, but advances it further, to a distinct recognition of that God of Nature in the God of Scripture."
- Critical Remarks on Isaiah vii. 18, 1799.
- Remarks on the Eastern Origination of Mankind and of the Arts of Cultivated Life, 1799.
- A Greek Version of the Inscription on the Rosetta Stone, containing a decree of the priests in honor of Ptolemy the Fifth, 1802.
- The Bioscope. Or Dial of Life, explained. To which is added, a Translation of St.Paulinu's Epistle to Celantia, on the Rule of Christian Life; and an Elementary View of General Chronology, 1814.
- A Comparative Estimate of the Mineral and Mosaical Geologies, 1822
- Life of Admiral Sir William Penn, 1833
"The Book of the New Covenant". A review and new translation, 1836
- Lise Wilkinson (19 March 1992). Animals and Disease: An Introduction to the History of Comparative Medicine. Cambridge University Press. pp. 91–3. ISBN 978-0-521-37573-3. Retrieved 24 April 2012.
- Fell-Smith 2004.
- Livingstone, Hart & Noll 1999, pp. 178–179.
- O’Connor 2007, pp. 372–373.
- Penn 1822, p. I:xiv.
- Conybeare, William D.; Phillips, William (1822). Outlines of the Geology of England and Wales.
- Fell-Smith, Charlotte (2004). "Penn, Granville (1761–1844)". In Smail, Rev. Richard. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 29 August 2009.
- Livingstone, David; Hart, Darryl G.; Noll, Mark A. (1999). Evangelicals and Science in Historical Perspective. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-511557-0.
- O’Connor, Ralph (2007). "Young-Earth Creationists in Early Nineteenth-century Britain? Towards a reassessment of 'Scriptural Geology'" (PDF). History of Science. Science History Publications Ltd. 45 (150): 357–403. ISSN 0073-2753.
- Penn, Granville (1822). A Comparative Estimate of the Mineral and Mosaical Geologies.