Thomas Garnett - Scientist of the Day


Thomas Garnett, a Scottish chemist and geologist, was born Apr. 21, 1766. He studied chemistry under Joseph Black at Edinburgh, and then taught for a short time at the newly-founded Royal Institution in London, before his early death, at age 26, in 1802. He is best remembered for a travel book he wrote, Observations on a Tour through the Highlands and Part of the Western Isles of Scotland (1800). At the time, there was a controversy swirling among geologists, as to whether basalt was a volcanic or a sedimentary rock. Scotland is full of varieties of basalt, which the Scots call “whinstone”, and Garnett seems to have visited all the important whinstone locations, such as Fingal’s Cave in the Hebrides, illustrating many of these sites in his book with charming aquatints. One place he discussed was Stirling Castle, north-west of Edinburgh. It sits on a dramatic whinstone sill and is one of the most perfectly situated fortresses you would ever want to see. Ten years earlier, James Hutton had gazed on a similar whinstone sill, the Salisbury Crags of Edinburgh, and had found evidence there that the Crags were once molten volcanic rock. Stirling Castle Rock, we now know, had a similar origin. We displayed Garnet’s book in our exhibition, Vulcan’s Forge and Fingal’s Cave, in 2004, where you can see Garnett’s bucolic aquatint of Stirling Castle (complete with contented cows).

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

 These four wood engraving by Samuel Griswold Goodrich in Illustrated Natural History of the Animal Kingdom, 1859, are an early interpretation of dinosaurs.

See more historical dinosaur illustrations in the LHL Digital Collections and learn more about them in the exhibition Paper Dinosaurs.

Magnolias from Mark Catesby, The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands, 1754.

Cyanotype photographs of the Panama Railway from the A.B. Nichols Panama Canal Collection.

A.B. Nichols was one of the first American engineers to arrive at the construction site of the future Panama Canal in 1904. He meticulously documented the Canal’s construction until its completion in 1914. Linda Hall Library’s year-long celebration of the Panama Canal’s centennial begins next week. Visit Explore Kansas City for details.

Illustrations of the principles of color harmony from George Field’s 1817 Chromatics, or, an essay on the analogy and harmony of colours.


Birds from Mark Catesby’s The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands, 1754. Ground dove with tooth-ache tree; lark with little yellow star flower; and crested titmouse on honeysuckle.

The Copernican world system, the phases of the Moon, the size of Celestial bodies,and the Earth encircled by Celestial bodies from Harmonia Macrocosmica, Andreas Cellarius, 1661.

Spectra of Daylight through Coloured Gasses & Vapours. 

Plates from William Allen Miller’s article On some cases of lines in the prismatic spectrum. Part of the digital collection Color and Optics.


Two plates from Louis-Isidore Duperrey’s Voyage Autour du Monde (1826).


Himmels-Atlas in 20 Blättern nach den grossen Bodenschen Sternkarten, M. Riedig, 1849.

These plates contain constellations that are no longer formally recognized. They were named for inventions and include the telescope, the hot air balloon, the electricity generator, and the printing press.