Murchison, Sir Roderick Impey (mûrˈkĭsən) [key], 1792–1871, British geologist. He served in the Napoleonic Wars but after the peace turned his attention to science. In the 1830s he undertook the investigation of previously undifferentiated rock strata in Wales and England; as a result of his researches he established the Silurian as a new geologic system and described it in The Silurian System (2 vol. in 1, 1839). With Adam Sedgwick he collaborated on the establishment of the Devonian system, and after carrying on an extended survey in Russia (1840–44) he also defined and named the Permian period. His last investigations were directed toward the geology of the Scottish Highlands. In 1846 he was knighted, and in 1855 he was appointed director-general of the Geological Survey of Great Britain. Murchison endowed a chair of geology and mineralogy at the Univ. of Edinburgh. He revised and modified the material of his earlier work in Siluria (1854) and collaborated on the Geology of Russia in Europe and the Ural Mountains (1845).
See biography by Sir Archibald Geikie (2 vol., 1875).