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UCL Culture Blog


News and musings from the UCL Culture team


Violent Earth – The Legacy of Dr Johnston-Lavis

By Nick J Booth, on 28 August 2013

Vesuvius in 1766.  © UCL Geology Collections.

Vesuvius in 1766.
© UCL Geology Collections.

The UCL Geology Collection contains over 100,000 objects, mostly specimens collected for and used in teaching, or material collected in the course of research. Most of these are, unsurprisingly, geological specimens. However within the Geological Collections there is a special sub-collection which includes not just specimens, but also art works, photographs and books of  special interest to the history of the study of volcanology. This is known as the Johnston-Lavis Collection.

Dr Henry Johnston-Lavis was born in London in 1856. He trained as a doctor at UCL and UCLH, gaining a first class degree in practical chemistry in 1874, and a first in clinical medicine in 1878. He moved to Naples in 1879, where he established a practice looking after the English speaking community. By all accounts he was a good doctor, and popular with his patients. There are accounts of him working day and night during a Cholera outbreak, despite being ‘dreadfully afraid’ of the disease. Amongst notable medical work he carried out was the discovery of the link between shell fish and gastric problems.