James Croll

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James Croll (photography)

James Croll (born January 2, 1821 in Little Whitefield, Cargill , Perthshire , † December 15, 1890 in Perth ) was a Scottish naturalist.

life and work

James Croll grew up in poverty in the provinces. He acquired his education as a self-taught , he was a passionate reader of physics and astronomy books. He gave up an apprenticeship as a wheelwright for health reasons and then worked in various professions, including a. as a carpenter, insurance salesman, waiter and tea merchant. In 1848 he married Isabella MacDonald. In 1859 he got a job as a porter at the Museum of Anderson University in Glasgow , Scotland . This gave him access to scientific literature. After getting his brother to do the janitorial job, he began studying physics , mechanics , astronomy and hydrostatics in the library , and published treatises on the motions of the earth.

Since 1864 he corresponded with Sir Charles Lyell about his idea that there was a connection between the appearance of ice ages and changes in the earth's orbit. Its 1864 publication in Philosophical Magazine on the subject was recognized as being of the highest quality. Croll then got a job in the Geological Survey of Scotland , to which he belonged from 1867 to 1881. There his research was funded, and he published books and articles in professional journals. He corresponded with Charles Darwin about river erosion .

Work on the relationship between the Ice Ages and Earth orbit was way ahead of its time. Croll was the first to suggest that cyclical changes in the earth's orbit from an ellipse (a slight oval) to an almost circular orbit and back again could explain the periodic occurrence of the ice ages. Today his theses are known under the term Milanković cycles , which are named after the Serbian geophysicist Milutin Milanković .

James Croll was made a member of the British Royal Society in 1876 . The University of St Andrews awarded him an honorary doctorate. In 1880 he retired into private life.


  • The Philosophy of Theism (1857)
  • Climate and Time, in their Geological Relations (1875) ( archive.org )
  • Discussions on Climate and Cosmology (1886)
  • Stellar Evolution and its Relation to Geologic Time (1889)
  • The Philosophic Basis of Evolution (1890)


  • Luca Prono: Croll, James . In: S. George Philander (Ed.): Encyclopedia of Global Warming and Climate Change, Second Edition . 2012 ( limited preview in Google Book Search).
  • Croll, James . In: Encyclopædia Britannica . 11th edition. tape 7 : Constantine Pavlovich - Demidov . London 1910, p. 482 (English, full text [ Wikisource ]).

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Diarmid A. Finnegan: James Croll, metaphysical geologist. In: Notes & Records of the Royal Society. August 17, 2011, accessed August 8, 2018 .