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Rocks at Cliffe Castle Museum

Geologists and studying rocks

Geology is the study of the Earth and the processes which occur within the Earth and on its surface. Through the study of rocks and minerals, geologists can find out more about the history of the planet and gain a better understanding of how events and processes in the past might influence the future.


Geologists help us in many ways, such as:

  • Mapping areas susceptible to landslides, earthquakes, floods and volcanic eruptions
  • Locating rocks and places that contain important metals, oil, natural gas and ground water
  • Studying past climatic conditions of the earth which can help us to understand how the climate is changing today and what the consequences might be.

Famous past geologists include:

Charles Darwin (1809-1882)
Darwin investigated geology along with natural history on the voyage of the Beagle.


Richard Owen (1804-1892)
The founder
of the modern Natural History Museum corresponded with Darwin on geological processes.


Charles Richter (1900-1985)
Devised the Richter magnititude scale for earthquakes.


Marie Stopes (1880-1958)
The womens rights and social reformer carried out research into coal fossils and became the first woman on the scientific staff at Manchester University.


Collecting Rocks and Cliffe Castle Museum

Collecting samples of rock is an important part of any geologists work. These can be displayed to the public in a museum or carefully stored away ready to be researched.


The rock and fossil collections at Cliffe Castle museum have been built up over the last 200 years and today contain approximately 25,000 specimens.


In the nineteenth century the Bradford Philosophical Society (BPS) acquired fossil material and mineral collections from local amateur geologists such as Richard Mawson and Joseph Dawson. Richard Mawson, a famous architect who built many buildings in Bradford, gave a collection of building stones, whilst Joseph Dawson’s mineral collection cataloguing reflects scientific knowledge and theory of the time.


In 1904 the collections of the BPS were acquired by the public museum to form the basis of its geology collections. Since then the collection has extended, including in 1984 the purchase of 900 large rock specimens from a local enthusiast, G Hinchliffe.


Today the collection is used for display, research and scientific purposes.


To find out more about rocks, follow the 'Related Links' at the very end of this page.

Test what you have learned about Rocks by taking our quiz - the Rock Hard Memory Test. 

Document icon Learning article provided by: Cliffe Castle Museum and Art Gallery | 

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