Scientist of the Day - Henry De la Beche
Henry De la Beche, an English geologist, was born Feb. 10, 1796. He travelled extensively in his younger years and made geological sketches of the places he visited, for he was a skilled artist. In 1830, he published Sections and Views Illustrative of Geological Phaenomena, which he illustrated from his own drawings. And perhaps because he liked rocks and stones, he was an early convert to lithography, and all of the prints in this work are lithographs that De la Beche executed himself. As you can see, he preferred fairly simple crayon-pencil drawings, although he was quite capable of more textured work when it was appropriate, as the colored view of Mont Blanc above indicates. The other illustrations above show the island of Staffa in the Outer Hebrides, home of Fingal’s cave, and the crater of Vesuvius. The title page is lithographed as well.
The portrait of De la Beche above is also a lithograph, but it was done in 1851 by Thomas Maguire, who did a whole series of portraits of scientists around this time. Maguire’s portrait of De la Beche is the only one the Library owns—we acquired it because we thought it would be nice to have a lithograph of a lithographer.
The portrait is quite large and very attractive, and we displayed it in our 2013 exhibition, Crayon and Stone, along with De la Beche’s Sections and Views. That exhibition is not yet available online.
Dr. William B. Ashworth, Jr., Consultant for the History of Science, Linda Hall Library and Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Missouri-Kansas City