In 1793, David Ure published his classic work, The History of Rutherglen and East-Kilbride, and with it the first scientific descriptions of a number of fossil organisms such as ostracods and rhizodont fish. David Ure was born in 1750, the son of a weaver, and became the product of the Scottish enlightenment, allowing him to study firstly at Glasgow Grammar School, and then at the University of Glasgow. He quickly established a reputation as a hard working student.
‘David Ure, he sits secure;
He’ll ne’er be fined by Dr. Moore.’
He was licensed to preach the gospel in 1783, and was soon after appointed Assistant Minister at East Kilbride, where he remained for seven years. During this time he collected material for his great work which was published after he had left East Kilbride for Newcastle. He returned to the parish of Uphall where he spent the last two years of his life.
David Ure is often regarded as the ‘Father of Scottish Palaeontology’. His book was supported by public subscription, and amongst the 700 subscribers can be found many eminent geologists of the time including James Hutton and John Playfair. His book contains the first illustrations of fossils from Scotland, and his work is fairly unique for the period as his collection is still preserved in the Hunterian Museum (University of Glasgow) and the City Museum and Art Gallery (Kelvingrove, Glasgow). The fossils are well-illustrated and it is possible to identify many of them from the drawings. David Ure mentions the collections of William Hunter, whose collections were bequeathed to the University of Glasgow after his death in 1783 to form the core to the Hunterian Museum, which opened to the public in 1807. David Ure’s collection eventually found it’s way to the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1843, and passed on to the Hunterian Museum in 1910.
“These remains of the ancient ocean become highly interesting, when we consider them as furnishing us with an undeniable proof, that the earth, in some remote period, underwent a very great change. It is certain that these bodies are not lapides sui generis [stones in their own right], produced from the semina of shell-fish, &c. carried out of the sea and afterwards falling down in rain, were deposited in the earth, where they arrived in the state we now find them. This was the belief of some naturalists of no small note. It is evident, on the slightest attention, that these bodies possessed organisation and life, in the same manner that shell-fish and other marine productions do at present. It is almost certain, that most of them lived and died in the places where now found; and that these places were once covered with sea. From this view of them some plausible theories of the earth have been formed; a multiplicity of arguments drawn to illustrate the causes by which the great revolutions of the Earth were brought about. Facts, however, are daily occurring which stand in opposition to most of these theories, and show them to have been too hastily made. The more enquiries, unbiased by theories, we make, and the greater number of facts that are undisguisedly related, the more able, surely will mankind be to discover the phenomena by which the globe of the earth was thrown into its present state.”