Thomas Davidson (palaeontologist)

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Thomas Davidson
Born 17 May 1817
Died 14 October 1885
Nationality British
Fields palaeontology
Alma mater University of Edinburgh
Known for Studies on Brachiopoda
Influences Leopold von Buch
Notable awards Wollaston Medal (1865)
Royal Medal (1870)

Thomas Davidson (17 May 1817 – 14 October 1885) was a British palaeontologist.


He was born in Edinburgh. His parents possessed considerable landed property in Midlothian. Educated partly in the University of Edinburgh and partly in France, Italy and Switzerland, and early acquiring an interest in natural history, he benefited greatly by acquaintance with foreign languages and literature, and with men of science in different countries.[1]

He was induced in 1837, through the influence of Leopold von Buch, to devote his special attention to the brachiopoda, and in course of time he became the highest authority on this group. The great task of his life was the Monograph of British Fossil Brachiopoda, published by the Palaeontographical Society (1850–1886). This work, with supplements, comprises six quarto volumes with more than 200 plates drawn on stone by the author. He also prepared an exhaustive memoir on Recent Brachiopoda, published by the Linnean Society.[1] He monographed the entire series of Brachiopoda collected by HMS Challenger.[2]

Davidson benefited from an introduction to Elizabeth Gray by John Young in 1865. Gray had a lifelong interest in the fossils of Girvan in Scotland. Her family took their holidays there each year and they would devote their time to gathering cleaning and labelling fossils. Gray had some basic geology training, but she preferred to let others do the scientific descriptions. Gray would send collections of fossils, including brachiopoda, regularly over several years between 1867 and 1885.[3]

He was elected fellow of the Geological Society of London in 1852 and in 1865 awarded their Wollaston medal. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1857, and in 1870 received a Royal medal from the Royal Society. In 1882, the degree of LL.D. was conferred upon him by the University of St Andrews.[1]

He died at Brighton on the 14 October 1885, bequeathing his fine collection of recent and fossil brachiopoda to the British Museum.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Chisholm 1911.
  2. ^ Obituary—Dr. Thomas Davidson
  3. ^ Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History) Vol. 17 (reprint ed.). London: British Museum. 2013. pp. 170–252. ISBN 0 565 09011 9. Retrieved 22 November 2015.