by Roger F.Vaughan B.A., B.Sc.
Most geologists have heard of Sydney Savory Buckman FGS, (3rd April 1860-24th February 1929), as his name appears as the author on so many species of ammonites, but few know about his career. He was born in Cirencester and moved to Dorset at the age of three when his father gave up teaching at the Royal Agricultural College, to retire to farming. This turned out to be a good move for Sydney Buckman as it gave him the opportunity to study the rich Oolitic strata around Bradford Abbas He published his first geological paper at the age of eighteen. He returned to Gloucestershire when he married, and started farming at Hampen near Andoversford, Cheltenham. He gave up his farm in 1886 and moved to Stonehouse, Gloucestershire, making geology his full-time profession. In 1898 he was living at Charlton Kings, Cheltenham, where he temporarily worked on the geological collections of Cheltenham College Museum. Later he moved away from the county to live at Thame where he did some work for museums including Oxford
His early work on fossil bivalve molluscs soon gained the attention of Thomas Davidson (1817-1885) who persuaded him to start work on a monograph of the oolitic ammonites. Later Buckman started work on another monumental monograph describing the type ammonites from the Lias Clay based on those at Whitby Museum. The monographs became his life's work, in fact he died before they were completed. Buckman was obviously fascinated by ammonites, publishing dozens of papers on them, named hundreds of them, and invented a new way of dating rocks by time zones called "hemerae", each with their characteristic ammonites. His
hemeral scheme for the Jurassic Period contained 370 hemerae and 47 ages, the latter roughly corresponding to Oppel's sediment "Zones".
Parts of Sydney Buckman's work has not always been as highly regarded as he might have hoped, some geologists feel that he has split the ammonites into too many artificial genera and species, some are not recognised today. His detailed small scale zonation scheme may receive a revival by modern geologists working on small detailed zonal sections. It seems a pity that only one fossil species has been named after Buckman and that of Buckmania is a gastropod, and not an ammonite!
Sydney Buckman retained his links with Gloucestershire through much of his life, acting as Secretary of the Cotteswold Naturalists Field Club from 1898 to 1904 and contributing papers to its Proceedings, some of them based on his geological work in the Cotswolds. His collections can be found in the Natural History Museum, Bristol City Museum; Sedgwick Museum, Cambridge; Harvard University; Liverpool University; B.G.S. Keyworth; Lyons Universite; Manchester Museum; Oxford University Museum; Peabody Museum, Yale and Stroud Museum.
Updated and corrected 20.6.1999
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