Lives of the fellows

William Henry Fitton

b.January 1780 d.13 May 1861
AB Trinity(1799) MD Edin(1810) LRCP(1811) MD Cantab(1815) FRS(1815) FRCP(1816)

William Henry Fitton, M.D., was the son of Nicholas Fitton, esq., of Dublin, and was born in that city in January, 1780. He was educated at Trinity college, Dublin; gained a senior scholarship there in 1798, and graduated A.B. in 1799. Being intended for a physician, he removed to Edinburgh, and after the usual course of study there, graduated doctor of medicine 12th September, 1810 (D.M.I. de Pneumonia). He was admitted a Licentiate of the College of Physicians 30th September, 1811, and then settled with his widowed mother and three sisters at Northampton. He took his degree of doctor of medicine at Trinity college, Dublin, 11th July, 1815, and having on the 15th November following been incorporated on that degree at Cambridge, he came again before our Censor’s board and was admitted a Candidate of the College 22nd December, 1815, and a Fellow 23rd December, 1816.

After a residence of eight years in Northampton, Dr. Fitton married a lady of good means, when he withdrew from practice, and, removing to London, devoted himself to the pursuit of science, and especially of geology. He was admitted a fellow of the Royal Society in 1815, and was one of the most active and distinguished fellows of the Geological Society, which he served for several years as secretary, and eventually as president. In 1852, when Dr. Fitton had for some years ceased from active labour, the Society conferred on their veteran associate the highest honour in their gift—the medal founded by his dear friend Wollaston.

Dr. Fitton died at his house in Sussex-gardens 13th May, 1861, in his eighty-second year. He was a frequent writer in the Edinburgh Review, and contributed to it from 1817 to 1841 a series of articles which present an enlightened commentary on the progress of geology during the eventful thirty years of which they treat. But the researches on which the reputation of Dr. Fitton as a geologist will most enduringly rest, "are those by which during twelve active years of his life (from 1824 to 1836) he laboriously developed the true descending order of succession, from the chalk downwards into the oolitic formations as exhibited in the south east of England and in the adjoining parts of France. Before these labours commenced geologists had only confused notions as to the order of the strata beneath the chalk, as well as of the imbedded fossil remains of each stratum. It was Fitton who made the greensand formations his own, by clearly defining the position and character of the upper and lower greensands as separated by the gault."(1)

William Munk

[(1) Proceedings of the Royal Soc. of London, vol. xii, p. 5, et seq.]

(Volume III, page 154)

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