William Whitaker (1836-1925) Pre-eminent Essex Geologist
William Whitaker was born on 4th May 1836 at 69, Hatton Garden London. He died, aged 88, at his home in Wellesley Court, Croydon, Surrey on 15th January 1925 and was buried on 19th January in Croydon Cemetery, Mitcham Road. In later years his long white hair and beard dominated his appearance. Whitaker’s character was fascinating. Most of his contemporaries saw him as a delightful, genial, kindly and humane character and regarded him as unselfish, honest, kind, good tempered, unaffected, transparent and truly loveable. His line managers at the Geological Survey saw Whitaker as incorrigible, obstructive and mutinous. Whitaker was born in London and died in Surrey. His work as a peripatetic field geologist took him to much of southern England and included a field trip Arctic Norway. Whitaker died of cancer of the pancreas.
His father was William Whitaker (1803-1893), a wholesale perfumerer, brush manufacturer and wine merchant. His mother was Margaret Burgess Michie (1806-1925). He was their only child. William Whitaker married Mary Keogh (1846-1916) at the Consul’s Office, Calais, on 25th August 1869. They had separated by 1891, but never divorced. William and Mary Whitaker had three children; Ellen Freda Whitaker (1874-1893), Mary De Fraine Whitaker (1876-1932) and Harry Lynn Whitaker (1882-1931).
William Whitaker was actively employed as a geologist for nearly 70 years, from 1857 to1925. He was also a geological bibliographer and a pioneer of British hydrogeology. Whitaker was a Christian, a staunch liberal and a member of the National Liberal Club. He started his geological surveying in Oxfordshire and Berkshire. He also worked in Buckinghamshire, Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire. He also laboured in the London region, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk. Whitaker was educated in London and St. Alban’s Grammar School before he went to University College London. He graduated in chemistry in 1855. He started work as an Assistant Geologist with the Geological Survey in 1857 and was promoted to the rank of Geologist in 1863. In 1882 he was promoted to District Surveyor and retired in 1896 to become a consulting geologist. Whitaker was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society in 1859 and a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1887.Whitaker was a member of the Essex Field Club from January 1880, when he was elected an honorary member, until his death 45 years later. He was a regular attendee at meetings and was always prepared to lead geological field trips. Whitaker was also the Club’s delegate for the annual meetings of the British Association. He was elected President in 1911 and served for three years. Whitaker was a generous benefactor to the Club. His Geological Survey work in Essex included mapping from 1868 to1882. He wrote several Geological Memoirs relating to Essex from 1872 to 1889 to accompany these. He also published Essex water supply papers from 1886-1923 and led geological field trips for the Club from 1888-1918. Whitaker also contributed geological articles for the Transactions and the Essex Naturalist from 1886-1914.
W.H. George. 2004. William Whitaker (1836-1925) – geologist, bibliographer and a pioneer of British hydrogeology in Mather, J.D. (ed). 200 Years of British Hydrogeology. Geological Society, Special Publications, 225. pages 51-65 . ISBN 0305-8719/04.
W.H. George. 2004. William Whitaker (1836-1925) – pre-eminent Essex Geologist. Essex Field Club Newsletter No. 44 May 2004. pages 15-17.
W.H.George. 2004. William Whitaker (1836-1925). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
Wealth at Death £9,854.