William Johnson Sollas

W.J. Sollas - photo
Prof W.J.Sollas
(1849 - 1936)
William Johnson Sollas was a member of staff of University College, Bristol, from 1879 to 1883. Initially appointed as a Lecturer in Geology and Zoology, and also as Curator of Bristol Museum, he was promoted to Professor in 1880. He continued to hold both posts until 1882, when he resigned from the curatorship to devote himself to the College full-time. In the following year, he left Bristol to take up the Chair of Geology at Trinity College, Dublin. Elected an F.R.S. in 1889, he remained in Dublin until 1897 when he was appointed to the Chair of Geology at Oxford. In 1907, he was awarded to Geological Society's Wollaston Medal.

Sollas was primarily a geologist but had a remarkable breadth of scientific interests which also included zoological and anthropological subjects. He published on fossil sponges and reptiles, petrology and mineralogy and, in his later years, became a leading authority on anthropology. He journeyed to the Pacific to investigate the origin of coral atolls, and to the Kalahari Desert to study its Bushmen. Whilst in Bristol he prepared a valuable account of the geology of the Bristol District for a visit by the Geologists Association, published an account of a Silurian inlier near Cardiff, and described plesiosaurs in the collections of Bristol Museum.

Sollas was thought to have been implicated in the Piltdown hoax, until his name was cleared by the publication of Gardiner's (1966) researches.

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