A Brief History

The Volcanic Studies Group was initially formed at Birkbeck College, University of London, on 4 December 1963, at the instigation of Dr. A.T.J. Dollar and Dr. G.P.L. Walker. The Group became formally associated with the Society as a specialist group in January 1964, and a steering committee was formed under the chairmanship of Professor F.H. Stewart. The VSG appears to have been the first Specialist Group of the Geological Society, shortly followed by the Engineering Group.

The Group’s first meeting in the Society’s ‘apartments’, held on 18 March 1964, took the form of a one-day colloquium on pyroclastic rocks. A second one-day colloquium, on acid rocks in the North Atlantic Tertiary province, was held on 11 November 1964. The latter meeting was chaired by Professor Hawkes and included contributions from Sabine (Rockall), Dunham & Emeleus (the acid rocks of Rhum), Skelhorn (the acid rocks of Ardnamurchan and Mull), Moorbath & Bell (Sr isotope studies), Walker (the acid rocks of Iceland), Cann (Ascension Island) and Le Bas (Carlingford), among others. 

Other one-day colloquia followed: Atlantic volcanoes on 19 May 1965; African volcanoes on 20 October 1965; ‘volcanological topics arising out of the New Zealand symposium of the International Association of Volcanology’ on 3 March 1966; and Alkali basalts and their associates on 2 June 1966. However, the meeting of 21-22 October 1966, on ‘the Origin and Evolution of Basaltic Magmas’ was unusual for two reasons; it was a 2-day symposium, and it was held in the Grant Institute at the University of Edinburgh – the first meeting of the VSG away from Burlington House. The meeting was followed by a field excursion led by Brian Upton. The speakers at that meeting were as follows: 

R. Macdonald – Geochemical and petrographic provinces of Karroo basalts
B. G. Jamieson – Evidence of high pressure fractionation in some Karroo basalts
K. G. Cox – Proliferation of liquid lines of descent in basaltic magmas
D.B. Clarke – Tertiary basalts from Baffin Island and West Greenland
H. I. Drever – The lower lava group and associated picritic minor intrusions on Ubekendt 
Ejland, West Greenland
W. J. Wadsworth – The shield-forming basalts of RĂ©union
B.G. J. Upton – The differentiated series of Piton des Neiges volcano, RĂ©union
M.J. O’Hara & E.L.P. Mercy – Lherzolite, ariegite and alkali basalt
J.H. Latter – The relationship between seismicity and volcanism in the Sicilian volcanoes
C. Blot & J. C. Grover – Recent predictions of volcanic eruptions in the south-west  Pacific.


Following the Edinburgh meeting, the tradition of holding a meeting in a different Department each year seems to have developed, with the 1967 meeting in Sheffield and 1968 in Manchester. The first AGM of the Group was held on the 18th of January 1967 and the Group’s first committee was elected, with Peter Sabine as Chair.