Hugh Miller 1802 – 1856

Hugh MillerHugh Miller was a self-taught stonemason and writer who became intensely fascinated by the fossils such as ammonites and fish he found near his home in Cromarty on the Black Isle. He moved to Edinburgh to become editor of The Witness newspaper and, being a staunch Christian, helped to found the Free Church of Scotland. His study of fossils, especially of the fossil fishes of the Old Red Sandstone (Devonian), led to his writing of (among others) three best-selling books: The Old Red Sandstone; Footprints of the Creator; and Testimony of the Rocks, in which he successfully popularised the science of geology. His studies brought him into the early debates about evolution (before Darwin’s theory of evolution), which he opposed on religious as well as scientific grounds.

He found over 6000 fossils, many of which form the core collection of Scottish fossils at the National Museums of Scotland in Edinburgh.

The Friends of Hugh Miller have highlighted two examples of Miller’s racial prejudice: In the first, Miller came out on the wrong side of a debate in the Free Church of Scotland about accepting cash from slave-holders’ churches in the American Deep South. Then, in a public lecture, late in life, he delivered a passage in which he insulted indigenous peoples round the globe. You can read more here.

For further information on Hugh Miller, visit The Friends of Hugh Miller and Hugh Miller’s Birthplace Cottage & Museum (run by the National Trust for Scotland).