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"Men of the Day No.14 "A faithful friend, an eminent servant, and the best possible president" Sir Roderick Murchison" (Image plate from Vanity Fair)

1870
Carlo Pellegrini

chromolithograph on paper (sheet: 36.5 cm x 24.0 cm)

Sir Roderick Impey Murchison, 1st Baronet KCB (1792–1871), Scottish geologist, is sometimes credited with being the first to predict the existence of Australian gold. Born into a wealthy family, he became interested in geology in the early 1820s, his subsequent endeavours giving rise to significant advances in the science. In his book Siluria, he described how he had the chance to examine rocks brought back from eastern Australia by his friend Count Strzelecki, and that the similarities between the Australian rocks and auriferous Russian specimens led him to predict that gold would be found in the colony. His biographer, however, comments that ‘it is not easy even for a partial friend to discover in what way Murchison’s share in the finding of gold in Australia could be regarded as in any way scientific, or more than a lucky guess’, although he did correspond with William Branwhite Clarke, who in 1841 had predicted, scientifically, that the colony would be found rich in gold. From the 1850s he was director-general of the British Geological Survey, in which role he encouraged investigation of Australia. He is commemorated in the Murchison crater on the moon, as well as more than a dozen locations on earth, including the Murchison River in WA and its tributaries, the Roderick and the Impey.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2015

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Carlo Pellegrini (age 32 in 1870)

Sir Roderick Murchison KCB (age 78 in 1870)

Subject professions

Science and technology

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

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The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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