John Flett (geologist)

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John Flett in 1935

Sir John Smith Flett KBE FRSE FRS FGS (26 June 1869 – 26 January 1947) was a Scottish physician and geologist.

Early life[edit]

Born in Kirkwall, Orkney, the son of the merchant and baillie James Ferguson Flett and Mary Ann Copland, he was educated at Kirkwall Burgh School, George Watson's College in Edinburgh, and Edinburgh University (MA; BSc 1892; MB CM 1894; DSc 1900; LLD 1912).[1]

Flett worked as a general practitioner. He served as Lecturer in Petrology at Edinburgh University, and as Petrographer (1901), Assistant Director (1911) and Director (1920–3) of the Geological Survey of Great Britain.[1]


John Flett on La Soufriere in 1907

Flett participated in several geological expeditions. He went with Tempest Anderson to observe eruptions in the Caribbean in 1902 and 1907.[2]

Awards and later life[edit]

Flett was awarded the Neill Prize (1898–1901) of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1900, upon the proposal of James Geikie, Ben Peach, John Horne and Ramsay Traquair. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1913,[3] received the Bolitho Medal of the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall in 1917,[4] made KBE in 1925 and won the Wollaston Medal in 1935.

Flett served as President of the Edinburgh Geological Society, President of the Mineralogical Society, and President of the geology section of the British Association (1921).[1]

Flett died in Ashdon, Essex.


He married Mary Jane Meason in 1897, and had four children.[5]

One son William Roberts Flett FRSE followed in his footsteps and was also a geologist of note.[6]


In the mid 1970s, the then new, glass-faced structure built in the grounds of the South Kensington Museums complex between the Geological Museum and the British Museum (Natural History) containing a lecture theatre, was named in his honour.


  1. ^ a b c Waterston, Charles D; Macmillan Shearer, A (July 2006). Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002: Biographical Index (PDF). I. Edinburgh: The Royal Society of Edinburgh. ISBN 9780902198845. Retrieved 1 January 2013. 
  2. ^ Anderson, Tempest (1903). "Report on the Eruptions of the Soufrière, in St. Vincent, in 1902, and on a Visit to Montagne". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series A. 200: 353–553. 
  3. ^ Read, H. H. (1948). "John Smith Flett. 1869-1947". Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society. 5 (16): 688–626. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1948.0006. 
  4. ^ "The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography". 2004. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/33178. 
  5. ^ family
  6. ^ BIOGRAPHICAL INDEX OF FORMER FELLOWS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF EDINBURGH 1783 – 2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0 902 198 84 X. 

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