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Talk: ‘Henry Clifton Sorby – Sheffield’s Greatest Scientist’ by Noel Worley

April 21, 2021 @ 7:30 pm 9:00 pm

Wed 21 April 2021: ‘Henry Clifton Sorby, Microscopist & Geologist – Sheffield’s Greatest Scientist’ by Noel Worley


Henry Clifton Sorby, Microscopist & Geologist.
‘Outside Sheffield, and outside geology and metallurgy the name Henry Clifton Sorby is little known and even within these circles all that is known by many is the name.  This is not surprising but it is regrettable for apart from his outstanding achievements in a wide variety of scientific fields the life of the man is interesting from a number of viewpoints.’ wrote Norman Higham in 1961 in his biography.  Sorby’s geological accomplishments have since undergone a reprise with international scientific recognition in the fields sedimentology, fluid inclusion geochemistry, structural geology and cosmology.  R L Folk, the famous American sedimentologist and holder of the International Association of Sedimentologists Sorby Medal when listing the variety of scientific topics that were fathered by Sorby remarked ‘… a truly imposing patrimony for a life-long bachelor.’

Sorby was a gentleman of independent means, and whilst well educated had no formal training.  He devoted the whole of his life to scientific enquiry working solidly until his death in 1908.  He was motivated by the spirit of original investigation and never sought the attention that his achievements merited. His averseness to specialisation led to criticism by some of his contemporaries in the scientific establishment.  They suggested that he merely ‘showed the way’ rather than exhausting the possibilities of a discovery.

Sorby, Microscopist & Geologist
Samples re Henry Clifton Sorby

Samples re Henry Clifton Sorby

The purpose of the talk is to review his principle successes, to examine the circumstances surrounding Henry Clifton Sorby’s life in Sheffield between 1826 to his death in 1908; and to explain the key influences that led him along the path of scientific discovery. His greatest triumphs were undoubtedly in the development and application of microscopic techniques and he is regarded throughout the world as the father of petrography, metallography and sedimentology.  He unleashed the power of the microscope in the investigation of meteorites and his work in this area has never been bettered. He was the first to use the microscope in forensic science and the first to study inclusions in crystals.

Sorby devoted the whole of his life to scientific enquiry working solidly until his death.  He was motivated by the spirit of original investigation and never sought the attention that his achievements merited. He was a powerful force in the development of higher education in Sheffield whose university he helped to establish and was a pioneer in the promotion of the provision of facilities for original scientific research.

Our speaker: Noel Worley

Noel Worley is a geologist having worked within the industrial minerals sector at British Gypsum until retirement in 2012. He has been president of the Yorkshire Geological Society and deputy chairman of the CBI Minerals Group. His main interests and publications concern the geology of the north of England including mineralization and karst in the South Pennines, evaporites, microscopy, and the work of H.C.Sorby.

More about WGCG
WGCG programmes include talks, currently virtual, field walks and residential field visits. WGCG creates and publishes trail guides and interpretation panels. We survey local geological sites (LGS) and works to conserve some of them. We can provide bursaries via the Holloway Award. We invite you to take a look at the geologygeodiversity, iceage history revealed in the Brandon Wall. We hope you will find great interest in The Geology of Warwickshire provided by the Warwickshire Geological Conservation Group (WGCG) including Meriden ShaftsStratford Trail GuideSolihull, Rugby, Guides to Building Stones in many towns, Corley Rocks and The Burton Dassett Hills Country Park. Come and see the Warwickshire’s Jurassic rocks and fossils including ammonites and belemnites.

Zoom Talk

You are invited to a Zoom meeting. You can join the meeting on Wed 21 April 2021 from 7:00 pm i.e., up to 30 minutes beforehand.

Talk starts promptly at 7:30 pm

Please register well in advance of the evening of Wed 21 April 2021 with this Registration Link


After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting with a link to be used on the night.

– Queries and Enquiries to: [email protected]

‘Henry Clifton Sorby – Sheffield’s Greatest Scientist’ by Noel Worley

April 21, 2021
7:30 pm – 9:00 pm
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Venue: Virtual (Zoom or YouTube) Zoom as if from – St Francis of Assisi R C Church, Kenilworth