We are delighted to have released our new book, James Croll and his Adventures in Climate and Time, which tells the compelling story of James Croll (1821-90), a brilliant-minded Scotsman from Perthshire who is considered to be one of the world’s first climate scientists. The book was written by Jo Woolf and illustrated by Dylan Gibson, who together have captured the story of James Croll with delightful energy and colour.

Raised in an impoverished crofting family with little access to schooling, James Croll was almost entirely self-taught, yet he helped us to understand why the ice ages happened, and how they could be predicted. He was the first to consider the role of feedback loops in climate systems, such as the albedo effect.

The book was initiated by the RSGS to mark the bicentenary of Croll’s birth and bring attention to his work as a Scottish climate scientist in the run-up to COP26 in Glasgow later this year. Copies are available for purchase from RSGS's online shop.

Commenting on the project, RSGS CEO Mike Robinson said:

“James Croll is one of the most significant, yet least heard of, figures in the field of geological climate science. This story could not come at a better time. With the eyes of the world on Glasgow, it is a reminder that Glasgow was not just the seat of the industrial revolution, but was also home to scientific discovery and learning. With the approach of COP26, his bicentenary is a great opportunity to showcase Croll’s and Scotland’s immense scientific contribution. This beautifully illustrated book has done a wonderful job of bringing Croll’s extraordinary story to life, perfectly explaining some of the science behind his theories, whilst also capturing his journey of discoveries. I believe that this book will inspire a new appreciation of Croll, not just as a scientist but as a remarkable human being.”

Early in his life, Croll worked numerous manual jobs, most notably as a janitor at the Andersonian College in Glasgow, where he sat in on lectures and had access to a library of books which inspired some of his theories. Croll applied his mind to some of the biggest questions of his generation: the age of the Sun, the source and direction of ocean currents, the thickness of the Antarctic ice sheet, and the cause of the ice ages. Croll eventually gained a position with the Geological Survey in Edinburgh, and released his book Climate and Time which gained him prominence amongst the most notable scientific minds of the day.

The inspiration for this children’s book’s format comes from a popular 19th century publication called the Penny Magazine, first published in 1832, which played such a key role in firing his young imagination. Croll became an avid reader at an early age, and later attributed his thirst for learning to the magazine's wide-ranging articles.

Author Jo Woolf commented on the experience of writing about James Croll’s life and discoveries:

“It was such a fun experience to write the book, particularly as I was able to start almost from scratch and imagine Croll as a youngster, full of curiosity and enthusiasm. Dylan’s images are so lively and appealing and full of character. They sparked new ideas when I saw them, and that’s how the book progressed - working together, we were able to develop the text and the images alongside each other. I discovered some elements of Croll’s character that I had overlooked before - his determination and tenacity, and his ability to daydream which took him away from the awful challenges he faced. He absolutely refused to give up his passion, which was studying and pondering the big questions of the universe, and I find that really inspiring.”

Jo Woolf and Dylan Gibson at the signing of the book

Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP officially launched the book in Wolfhill, the Perthshire birthplace of James Croll. John Swinney said:

“James Croll’s research into climate change was ground-breaking, and inspired generations of scientists in the decades that followed. It is a source of enormous local pride that a man who has contributed so profoundly to our collective understanding of the world was born in Perthshire, and I am therefore delighted to support the publication of this book. For centuries, Scotland has been at the forefront of scientific research and achievement; as we approach COP26, it is vital that we harness this academic ingenuity so that Scotland may take a leading role in the fight against climate change.”

Deputy First Minister John Swinney in Wolfhill