‘The most remarkable man’: James Croll, Quaternary scientist

Kevin J Edwards* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

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The year 2021 marked the bicentenary of the birth of James Croll (1821–1890), the self-educated son of a crofter-stonemason, whose life was characterised by a dizzying range of occupations and homes, poor health and financial concerns, and yet he became a pioneer of orbital dynamics and ice age climate change with an impressive record of publication. Drawing upon archival information and recently published observations, this paper explores selected aspects of Croll's biography, his scientific connections and controversies, and that area of his life relevant to Quaternary science. He was a 19th century polymath whose multifaceted contributions have been a catalyst for subsequent systems-based climate science on the grand scale, including the foundations for the seminal work of Milutin Milankovitch on the rhythms of Quaternary environmental change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)400-419
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Quaternary Science
Issue number3
Early online date4 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Open access via Wiley agreement

Data Availability Statement

Data sharing is not applicable to this article as no new easily quantifiable data were created or analysed in this study. There are frequent references to either publicly available citation material or to archive documentary data which are accessible upon application to the repositories concerned. Relevant sources are indicated within the text.


  • biography
  • history of science
  • James Croll
  • Milutin Milankovitch
  • Quarternary science


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