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Geological Survey of India


Geological Survey of India (GSI) said to have its beginning perhaps in 1836 when the Coal Committee was formed by the east india company to explore the possibility of using Indian coal for navigation and other purposes. Dr Henry Westly Voysey, a surgeon to the Great Trigonometrical Survey, may be considered as the father of Indian Geology. Sir John McClelland, secretary of the committee in 1837 and 1845, first recommended for appointment of trained geologists. The first report for the season 1848-49, the outcome of Sir McClelland's survey, records the first use of the term Geological Survey of India. On the 4 February 1848, Sir David Hiraw Williams was appointed Geological Surveyor of the Geological Survey of India. After Sir Williams' death in 1848 McClelland volunteered and remained in charge of the geological establishment as 'Officiating Surveyor' till his retirement on 1 April 1850. Sir Thomas Oldham took over charge as Geological Surveyor on 5 March 1851. Since then the Geological Survey of India had a continuous history of glorious deeds of finding many new mineral deposits, and making a breakthrough in earth science.

In his memorandum (1852) to the Governor of Bengal, Sir Thomas Oldham put forward his idea of bringing within the ambit of the activity of the Geological Survey of India the broader perspective of geological study with a view to preparing a geological map and recording the discovery of special objects. The monumental task initiated in 1848 had only a manpower of sixteen geologists and two mining geologists in 1905 and the strength was raised to twenty-five with 17 Indian geologists in 1939. Most noted among them are Ram Singh (1873), Kishen Singh (1874), Hira Lal (1874), PN Bose (1880), and PN Dutta (1887-1894). The first record of Geological Survey of India was published in 1876. Initially the officers of GSI did not have any publication of their own and the papers were communicated through journals of asiatic society of Bengal and Madras Journal of Literature and Science.

The initial thrust was on the exploration of coal. The coalfields of Bengal were thoroughly explored. The Geological Map of West Burdwan, Manbhum and Birbhum got shape as early as in 1847. WT Blandford, after carrying out his survey, officially published the first geological map of Raniganj Coalfield. The Coal bearing Gondwanas and the copper occurrences in North Bengal in the district of Darjeeling were described by Mallet.

Microscopes for study of rocks and minerals were introduced in 1890. From an analysis of job charnock's tombstone, Sir Thomas Holland, a part time lecturer of presidency college, Calcutta, described the hypersthene bearing granitoid rocks in his memoir in 1900 and coined the term Charnockite.

Following Medlicott's comment that Raniganj Coalfield is the most promising place for a trial extraction of iron from local iron-ore, Bengal Iron Company was formed and 12,700 tons of pig iron was produced till 1874. In the Proceedings of Asiatic Society of Bengal the excerpts of the study of Cachhar earthquake of 10 January 1869 were published. (Another earthquake on 12 June 1897 with its epicentre in Assam affected a vast area of northeastern states and Bengal Province). Sir Thomas Holland took up the first geological investigation for engineering project in 1859 in connection with the proposed extension of railway line in Raniganj Coalfield and the first railway line was opened in 1853.

The major geological activities in Bengal during the period from 1900 to 1947 include the formation of a coalfield party for detailed survey of the Jharia and Ranignj coalfields on 4 inch to 1 mile scale by Pascoe. Initially the modem smelter for iron ore was founded with the ironstone nodule within Gondwanas from Raniganj coalfield, and the known wolfram occurrence of Bankura district was taken up for mining.

The Geological Survey of India is closely linked with the geological section of indian museum, Calcutta. The museum of economic geology, set up in 1840, was initially housed in the building of Asiatic Society of Bengal. The museum got merged with Geological Survey of India and was opened to public on 1 January 1856. Since then the Indian Museum continued to house important specimens of rocks, minerals and fossils both from India and abroad. The collection of meteorite (numbering 247 in 1867) is one of the best in the world and largest in Asia. Geological Survey of India is still the custodian of the geological specimens in the Indian Museum. [S Chakrabarty]