Members at our 2007 BBQ

Naturalists' Society

Cymdeithas Naturiaethwyr



Frederick John North O.B.E., D.Sc, F.G.S., F.M.A. (1889-1968) 56th President

Back to the 150th Anniversary index

Go Back to last page visited

We do not have an obituary of him in the transactions, but there is information about F J North available on-line as he was a prolific communicator and educator on the topic of geology and much of this has remained relevant to many people right up to the present day. There is also a brief summary of his life in the Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion

Frederick John North (1889-1966)57, born in London of a Welsh mother and an English father, left school at fourteen and learnt his geology and zoology in evening classes whilst working in a chemical factory and as a Laboratory Assistant (later a demonstrator) in King's College, London. He was also for a short time on the staff of the British Museum (Natural History). He took an external degree, with first class honours, in the University of London. His intention had apparently been to apply for a post with the Geological Survey of Great Britain, but he was persuaded by T. Franklin Sibly, Professor of Geology at the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire, to apply for the post of Assistant in Geology at the Museum and his application was successful. He was made Keeper of the department in 1919 and granted the Degree of Doctor of Science for his research work on the fossil brachiopod genus Syringothyris in 1920.

There is a good on-line obituary in the Dictionary of Welsh biography that was written by Douglas Bassett 108th President. From that a summary: -

He left school at 14 and learnt his geology in evening classes in King's College , University of London . He took an external degree, with 1st class honours, at that University, before joining the staff of the National Museum of Wales where he served for 42 years, initially as assistant keeper of the Department of Geology and from 1919 to 1959 as Keeper; from 1959 to 1960 he was Honorary Keeper of the newly created Department of Industry.

His appointment was announced in the Welsh newspapers along with other museum news

The Cambria Daily Leader 16th March 1914

The Cambria Daily Leader 16th March 1914

As was normal for museum staff in those days he was immediately elected as a member of the society and as early as 1915 read his first detailed paper to the Biological and Geological section on On A Boring For Water At Roath, Cardiff; With A Note On The Underground Structure Of The Pre-Triassic Rocks Of The Vicinity which was published in Volume XLVIII of the transactions. This was to be the first or many as North was recognised to be an excellent communicator on the subject of Geology and also on the history of Geology, some further examples follow: -

  1. The Minerals Of Glamorgan

  2. From The Geological Map To The Geological Survey. Glamorgan And The Pioneers Of Geology

  3. Further Chapters In The History Of Geology In South Wales; Sir H. T. de la Beche and the Geological Survey

  4. Dean Conybeare, Geologist

There are also many other articles written by him in the journals of many other local societies

Given his appointment coincided with WWI there are not a lot of newspaper articles about his early career, but part of the remit of the National Museum of Wales was to support other welsh institutions and I have found this one where he clearly offers some blunt advice on a collection offered: -

Pioneer 3rd March 1917

Pioneer 3rd March 1917

As was noted above regarding the paper he read to the society in 1934, he played a key part in obtaining the papers of Sir Henry De la Beche to found an important collection within the National Museum of Wales. The papers were donated in the 1930's. However he was not always as careful as one would have imagined as per this article in the geoscientist magazine regarding the use of an original William Smith map as cards to colleagues and possibly others

A selection of the books authored by F J North with a selection of covers from various editions below

  1. The slates of Wales ( 1925 )
  2. Coal, and the coalfields in Wales ( 1926 )
  3. Geological maps: their history and development, with special reference to Wales ( 1928 )
  4. The evolution of the Bristol Channel with special reference to the coast of South Wales ( 1929 )
  5. Limestones, their origins, distribution, and uses ( 1930 )
  6. The river scenery at the head of the Vale of Neath ( 1930 )
  7. The map of Wales [before 1600 A.D.] ( 1935 )
  8. Humphrey Lhuyd's maps of England and Wales ( 1937 )
  9. Geology in museums ( 1939 )
  10. Snowdonia: The National Park of Wales - New Naturalists ( 1948 )
  11. Sunken cities, some legends of the coast and lakes of Wales ( 1957 )
  12. The stones of Llandaff Cathedral ( 1958 )
  13. Mining for metals in Wales ( 1962 ) Download available

A Selection of F J North Book covers

A selection of F J North Book covers

Douglas Bassett's obituary of him includes some more information on his contribution to museums in general and especially to Wales: -

He was a proficient curator who built up the Department of Geology at the National Museum and who wrote a great deal on the work of a museum curator. He was a keen advocate of the museum profession and a long-serving Council member of the Museums Association, President in 1952-53. He was awarded a D.Sc. by the University of London in 1920 for research work on fossil brachiopods, an O.B.E. in 1949 "for services to science in Wales", and an Honorary D.Sc. in the same year in the citation for which is stated: "For him a museum is essentially an interpreter's house".

His death is briefly recorded in the Report For The Year 1967-68 in volume XCIV of the Transactions: - "The Council records with deep regret the death of Dr. F. J. North, O.B.E., D.Sc, F.G.S., F.M.A., in July. He was President in 1929."

Back to the 150th Anniversary index

Before this... Thomas William Proger, F.Z.S., 1860-1947 31st and 55th President

Next up... Sir Cyril Fred Fox (1882-1967) 57th President

See our Full list of Presidents

These pages are part of the Cardiff Naturalists' Society 150th Anniversary celebrations and are about our history and are celebrating the people who developed our Society and helped build the city and the cultural heritage of Cardiff. You can read more about that using the links above

If you want to read about the ways we study the wildlife and environment of the Cardiff area and its surroundings, and about the talks we have about the wildlife of the world, and find the programme of talks, walks and other events that we do then please take a look at our main website, our blog and our facebook and twitter feeds for up to date news