John William Salter

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JOHN WILLIAM SALTER (1820-1869), English naturalist and palaeontologist.

John William Salter (15 December 1820 – 2 December 1869) was an English naturalist, geologist, and palaeontologist.

Salter was apprenticed in 1835 to James De Carle Sowerby, and was engaged in drawing and engraving the plates for Sowerby's Mineral Conchology, the Supplement to Sowerby's English Botany, and other natural history works.[1] In 1842, he was employed for a short time by Adam Sedgwick in arranging the fossils in the Woodwardian Museum at Cambridge, and he accompanied the professor on several geological expeditions (1842–1845) into Wales.

Salter was born in Kentish Town, London, the son of John Salter (1779–1837), a banking clerk, and his wife, Hannah. In 1846, Salter married Sally, daughter of James De Carle Sowerby, and eventually fathered seven children with her. Also in 1846, Salter was appointed on the staff of the Geological Survey and worked under Edward Forbes until 1854. He succeeded Forbes as palaeontologist to the survey and gave his chief attention to the Palaeozoic fossils, spending much time in Wales and the border counties. He contributed the palaeontological portion to Andrew Crombie Ramsay's Memoir on the Geology of North Wales (1866), assisted Roderick Murchison in his work on Siluria (1854 and later editions), [2] and Adam Sedgwick by preparing A Catalogue of the Collection of Cambrian and Silurian Fossils contained in the Geological Museum of the University of Cambridge (1873). [3]

In the very early 1860's, whilst collecting fossils in South West Wales as part of his duties for the British Geological Survey, Salter was examining coastal exposures by boat around the St Davids peninsula and landed in the small inlet of Porth-y-rhaw, in the mistaken belief that it was Solva Harbour a short distance to the east. On examination of the eastern cliff section and in what is now known as the Menevia Formation (Rees et al., 2014, p.73) [4] Salter discovered remains of one of the largest trilobites ever found (over 50 cm long) and which, in 1863, he named Paradoxides davidis after his friend David Homfray (1822-1893), an amateur fossil collector from Porthmadog, North West Wales, [5] and whom for many years, up to the time of his death, was Clerk to the Justices of the Peace for the Penrhyndeudraeth Division.

Encouraged by Salter, Homfray made many important fossil discoveries in the Porthmadog district, Gwynedd, especialy within the Tremadocian rocks, and Salter named several species after Homfray to honour his efforts, e.g. Niobe (Niobella) Homfrayi, [6] [7] [8] Asaphus Homfrayi Salter (1866), [9] now Asaphellus homfrayi (Salter) - see Morris (1988): Lectotype, [10] from Garth Hill, near Porthmadog, and Conularia Homfrayi Salter; undifferentiated Type, also from Garth Hill. (Salter 1866, p.354, pl. 10, fig. 11); Salter (1873, p.18, p. 323); Woods, H. (1891. 180 x v SPL: II. 16, (3): p.119; [11].

From the Clogau Formation of Waterfall Valley near Maentwrog, Homfray also discovered for the first time in Britain, Conocoryphe coronata Barrande, 1846, [12] and another species named in his honour, "Conocoryphe" Homfrayi Salter, [13] [14] (SALTER. 1873, p. 5); WOODS, H. 1891. (180 + xiv SPL: II. 16 (3): p.143). subsequently assigned to Ptychoparia, Hawle and Corda, 1847. [15]

In 1865 Salter collaborated with Henry Woodward to produce a Chart of Fossil Crustacea. [16] and in the same year published a paper on some Additional Fossils from the Lingula-Flags. [17] in which he described several trilobite species including:

  • Agnostus davidis Salter, 1865. Redescribed by Hicks (1872, pl. 5, figs. 2-4). [18] Transferred to Ptychagnostus (s. l.). One of the largest Agnostid trilobites known and originally from the Menevia Formation, Hypagnostus parvifrons Biozone of Porth-y-rhaw; recorded also from exposure behind the lifeboat house in Solva Harbour, Menevia Formation, H. parvifrons Biozone.
  • Agnostus scutalis Salter, 1865, redescribed by Henry Hicks (HICKS H. 1872, pl. 5, figs. 9-14). Transferred to Peronopsis and inclues the subspecies P. scutalis scutalis (figs. 9-12) and P. scutalis exarata (figs. 13,14). From the Hypagnostus parvifrons Biozone and basal Pt. punctuosus Biozone of Porth-y-rhaw.
  • Agnostus scarabaeoides Salter, 1865. Redescribed (Hicks H., 1872, pl. 5, fig. 8), = Ptychagnostus punctuosus (Angelin, 1851) - type species of Ptychagnostus. From the Ptychagnostus punctuosus Biozone, Porth-y-rhaw.
  • Agnostus barrandei Salter, 1865. Redescribed (Hicks 1872, pl. 5, figs. 5, 6). Transferred to Ptychagnostus (s. l.). described originally from the Menevia Formation, T. fissus Biozone, Penpleidiae headland, east side of Caerfai Bay, half mile south of St Davids. Also occurrs frequently in the lower part of the Menevia Formation, T. fissus Biozone of Dwrhyd, near Nine Wells, Upper Solva.
  • Anopolenus salteri sp. nov. Hicks was also described in Salter's paper (Hicks in Salter, 1865, p.478, fig. 1 on p.48). The species belongs in the genus Clarella Howell (1933, p. 217). [19] The Lectotype is SM A1056 (internal mould of cranidium figured by Hicks 1872, pl. 7 fig. 9.) as Anopolenus salteri, and Lake (1934, pl.24, Fig. 6) as Centropleura henrici (Salter); exact horizon unknown, but the species was listed by Harkness and hicks (1871, p. 397) [20] to be from the "Middle division of the Menevian", associated with Solenopleuropsis ("Conocoryphe") variolaris, (Salter), Paradoxides davidis Salter, Anopolenus henrici Salter and Holocephalina primordialis Salter which suggests derivation from the basal part of the Pt. punctuosus Biozone of Porth-y-rhaw. Of specimens illustrated by Hicks (1872) as A. salteri and in comparison to the lectotype cranidium, his fig. 1 on pl. 7, has narrower fixigenae (tr.) when compared to occipital width (tr.); fig. 2 is from the Clogau Formation of Waterfall Valley, Maentwrog and is identified as Clarella impar (Hicks, 1872), and his fig. 8 resembles a laterally compressed example of Anopolenus henrici Salter (1864, p. 236, pl. 13). [21]

Salter prepared several of the Decades of the Geological Survey and became the leading authority on trilobites. He resigned his post on the Geological Survey in 1863 and sadly committed suicide on 2 December 1869 by throwing himself into the Thames, [22]; he was buried in Highgate Cemetery. At the time of his death he had barely completed the illustrated ‘Catalogue of Cambrian and Silurian Fossils’ (q.v.) in the Woodwardian Museum and he left unfinished a ‘Monograph of British Trilobites,’ published by the Palæontographical Society (1864–1867).

He was elected an associate of the Linnean Society in 1842, made a fellow of the Geological Society of London (FGS) in 1846, and in 1865 was awarded the Wollaston donation-fund by the Geological Society.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Professor Huxley (1870). "The Anniversary Address of the President". Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society. 26 (1–2): xxix–lxiv. doi:10.1144/GSL.JGS.1870.026.01-02.04.
  2. ^ MURCHISON, R. I. 1854. Siluria. The History of the Oldest known Rocks containing Organic Remains, with a Brief Sketch of the Distribution of Gold over Earth. John Murray, London, 523 pp.
  3. ^ SEDGWICK, A. 1873 (in SALTER J. W.). A Catalogue of the Collection of Cambrian and Silurian Fossils Contained in the Geological Museum of the University of Cambridge. University Press, Cambridge
  4. ^ REES, A. J., THOMAS, A. T., LEWIS, M., HUGHES, H. E. & TURNER, P. 2014. The Cambrian of S W Wales: Towards a United Avalonian Stratigraphy. Geological Society, London, Memoirs, 42, 1–30.
  5. ^ SALTER, J. W. 1863. On the Discovery of Paradoxides in Britain. Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society, London, 19, 274–277.
  6. ^ SALTER 1873. Catalogue of the Cambrian and Silurian fossils contained in the Geological Museum of the University of Cambridge (2): p.15.
  7. ^ SALTER, J. W. 1866. Palaeontographical Society Monographs (1): p. 143, pl. 20, fig. 9.
  8. ^ WOODS, H. 1891. Catalogue of the Type Fossils in the Woodwardian Museum, Cambridge. Henry Woods with preface by T. McKenny Hughes CUP. 180 + xiv SPL: II. 16 (3): p.148.
  9. ^ SALTER J. W. 1866 . The geology of North Wales. Memoirs of the Geological Survey of England and Wales. vol. iii (1st edition) (1): p.354 pl. 10 fig. 11.
  10. ^ MORRIS, S. F. 1988. A review of British trilobites, including a synoptic revision of Salter's monograph. Palaeontogr. Soc. (Monogr.), 1-316. pp. 26, 255.
  11. ^ SLATER, I. L. 1907. A monograph of British Conularae Palaeontographical Society Monographs (4): p.1.
  12. ^ BARRANDE, J. 1846. Notice pre Âliminaire sur le syste Áme silurien et les trilobites de Bohême. Leipzig, 97 pp.
  13. ^ HICKS, 1872 b. Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London. vol. xxviii (2): p. 178 pl. vi fig. 1.
  14. ^ LAKE, 1932. A monograph of the British Cambrian Trilobites. Palaeontographical Society Monographs pt. vii (4): p.151 pl. xix fig. 7.
  15. ^ HAWLE, J. & CORDA, A. J. C. 1847. Prodrom einer Monographieder bohmischen Trilobiten. 176 pp. J. G. Calve, Prague.
  16. ^ Chart of Fossil Crustacea. By J. W. SALTER and H. WOODWARD. With Descriptive Catalogue. Lowry & Tennant: London. 1865. The Annals and magazine of natural history; zoology, botany, and geology, 16, series 3, pp. 362-364
  17. ^ SALTER, J. W. 1865. On some Additional Fossils from the Lingula-Flags. By J. W. Salter, Esq., A. L. S., F. G. S. With a Note on the genus Anopolenus; by Henry Hicks, Esq. M. R. C. S.
  18. ^ HICKS H. 1872. Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London vol. xxviii (2): p.178 pl. vi fig. 12.
  19. ^ HOWELL B. F. 1933. The Classification of the Trilobite Subfamily, Centropleurinae. Medd. fra Dansk Geol. Forening. København. Bd. 8, pp. 215-219.
  20. ^ HARKNESS, R. & HICKS, H. 1871. On the ancient rocks of the St David’s Promontory, South Wales, and their fossil contents: with descriptions of the new species, by H. Hicks, Esq. Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society, London, 27, 384–404.
  21. ^ SALTER, J. W. 1864: On some new fossils from the Lingula-flags of Wales. Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London, 20, 233–241.
  22. ^ SECORD, J. A. (1985). "John W. Salter: The rise and fall of a Victorian palaeontological career". Archives of Natural History. 1: 61–75. doi:10.3366/anh.1985.007.

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