Dean of Llandaff
Born 1787 Died 1857
William Daniel Conybeare, one of the most distinguished of English geologists, who was born in London on the 7th of June 1787, was a grandson of John Conybeare, Bishop of Bristol (1602-1785), a notable preacher and divine, and son of Dr William Conybeare, rector of Bishopsgate. Educated first at Westminster school, he went in 1805 to Christ Church, Oxford, where in 1808 he took his degree of B.A., with a first in classics and second in mathematics, and proceeded to M.A. three years later.
Having entered holy orders he became in 1814 curate of Wardington, near Banbury, and he accepted also a lectureship at Brislington near Bristol. During this period he was one of the founders of the Bristol Philosophical Institution (1822). He was rector of Sully in Glamorganshire from 1823 to 1836, and vicar of Axminster from 1836 to 1844. He was appointed Bampton lecturer in 1839, and was instituted to the deanery of Llandaff in 1845.
Attracted to the study of geology by the lectures of Dr John Kidd he pursued the subject with ardour. As soon as he had left college he made extended journeys in Britain and on the continent, and he became one of the early members of the Geological Society. Both Buckland and Sedgwick acknowledged their indebtedness to him for instruction received when they first began to devote attention to geology. To the Transactions of the Geological Society as well as to the Annals of Philosophy and Philosophical Magazine he contributed many geological memoirs. In 1821 he distinguished himself by the description of a skeleton of the Plesiosaurus, discovered by Mary Anning, and his account has been confirmed in all main points by subsequent researches.
Among his most important memoirs is that on the south-western coal district of England,written in conjunction with Dr Buckland, and published in 1824. He wrote also on the valley of the Thames, on EElie de Beaumont's theory of mountain-chains, and on the great landslip which occurred near Lyme Regis in 1839 when he was vicar of Axminster. His principal work, however, is the Outlines of the Geology of England and Wales (1822), being a second edition of the small work issued by William Phillips and written in co-operation with that author. The original contributions of Conybeare formed the principal portion of this edition, of which only Part I, dealing with the Carboniferous and newer strata, was published. It affords evidence throughout of the extensive and accurate knowledge possessed by Conybeare; and it exercised a marked influence on the progress of geology in this country. He was a fellow of the Royal Society and a corresponding member of the Institute of France. In 1844 he was awarded the Wollaston medal by the Geological Society of London. The loss of his eldest son, W. J. Conybeare, preyed on his mind and hastened his end. He died at Itchenstoke, near Portsmouth, a few months after his son, on. the 12th of August 1857. (Obituary in The Gentleman's Magazine Sept. 1857, p. 335.)
His elder brother John Josias Conybeare (1779-1824), also educated at Christ Church, Oxford, and an accomplished scholar, became vicar of Batheaston, and was professor of Anglo-Saxon and afterwards of poetry at Oxford. He likewise was an ardent student of geology and communicated several important papers to the Annals of Philosophy and the Transactions of the Geological Society of London. (Obituary in Ann. Phil. vol. viii., Sept. 1824, p. 162.)
Being the entry for CONYBEARE, WILLIAM DANIEL in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the text of which lies within the public domain.