Barthelemy Faujas de Saint-Fond - Encyclopedia




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FAUJAS DE SAINT-FOND, BARTHELEMY (1741-1819), French geologist and traveller, was born at Montelimart on the 17th of May 1741. He was educated at the Jesuits' College at Lyons; afterwards he went to Grenoble, applied himself to the study of law, and was admitted advocate to the parliament. He rose to be president of the seneschal's court (1765), a post which he honourably filled, but the duties of which became irksome, as he had early developed a love of nature and his favourite relaxation was found in visits to the Alps. There he began to study the forms, structure, composition and superposition of rocks. In 1775 he discovered in the Velay a rich deposit of pozzuolana, which in due course was worked by the government. In 1776 he put himself in communication with Buffon, who was not slow to perceive the value of his labours. Invited by Buffon to Paris, he quitted the law, and was appointed by Louis XVI. assistant naturalist to the museum, to which office was added some years later (1785, 1788) that of royal commissioner for mines. One of the most important of his works was the Recherches sur les volcans eteints du Vivarais et du Velay, which appeared in 1778. In this work, rich in facts and observations, he developed his theory of the origin of volcanoes. In his capacity of commissioner for mines Faujas travelled in almost all the countries of Europe, everywhere devoting attention to the nature and constituents of the rocks. It was he who first recognized the volcanic nature of the basaltic columns of the cave of Fingal (Staffa), although the island was visited in 1772 by Sir Joseph Banks, who remarked that the stone" is a coarse kind of ' Basaltes, very much resembling the Giants' Causeway in Ireland " (Pennant's Tour in Scotland and Voyage to the Hebrides). Faujas's Voyage en Angleterre, en Ecosse et aux Iles Hebrides (1797) is full of interest - containing anecdotes of Sir 'Joseph Banks and Dr John Whitehurst, and an amusing account of " The Dinner of an Academic,Club " (the Royal Society), and has been translated into English (2 vols., 1799). Having Seen nominated in 1793 professor-at the Jardin des Plantes, he held this post till he was nearly eighty years of age, retiring in 1818 to his estate of Saint-Fond in Dauphine. Faujas took a warm interest in the balloon experiments of the brothers Montgolfier, and published a very complete Description des experiences de la machine aerostatique de MM. Montgolfier, &c. (1783, 1784). He contributed many scientific memoirs to the Annales and the Memoires of the museum of natural history. Among his separate works, in addition to those already named are - Histoire naturelle de la province de Dauphine (178r, 1782); Mineralogie des volcans (1784); and Essai de geologie (1803-1809). Faujas died on the 18th of July 1819.

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