John Flett (geologist)

Sir John Smith Flett KBE FRSE FRS FGS (26 June 1869 – 26 January 1947) was a Scottish physician and geologist.

Early life

Born in Kirkwall, Orkney, the son of Mary Ann Copland and merchant and baillie James Ferguson Flett. He was educated at Kirkwall Burgh School, George Watson's College in Edinburgh, and the University of Edinburgh (MA; BSc 1892; MB CM 1894; DSc 1900; LLD 1912).[1]

Flett worked as a general practitioner. He served as lecturer in Petrology at the University of Edinburgh, and as Petrographer (1901), Assistant Director (1911) and Director (1920–3) of the Geological Survey of Great Britain.[1]


Flett participated in several geological expeditions. He went with Tempest Anderson to observe eruptions in the Caribbean in 1902 and 1907.[2]

Awards and later life

Flett was awarded the Neill Prize (1898–1901) of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1900, on the proposal of James Geikie, Ben Peach, John Horne and Ramsay Traquair. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1913,[3] received the Bolitho Medal of the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall in 1917,[4] made KBE in 1925 and won the Wollaston Medal in 1935.

Flett served as President of the Edinburgh Geological Society, President of the Mineralogical Society, and President of the geology section of the British Association (1921).[1]

Flett died in Ashdon, Essex.


He married Mary Jane Meason in 1897, and together they had four children.[5] Their son William Roberts Flett was a noted geologist.[6]


In the mid 1970s, the then new, glass-faced structure built in the grounds of the South Kensington Museums complex between the Geological Museum and the British Museum (Natural History) containing a lecture theatre, was named in his honour.


  1. Waterston, Charles D; Macmillan Shearer, A (July 2006). Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002: Biographical Index (PDF). I. Edinburgh: The Royal Society of Edinburgh. ISBN 9780902198845. Retrieved 1 January 2013.
  2. Anderson, Tempest (1903). "Report on the Eruptions of the Soufrière, in St. Vincent, in 1902, and on a Visit to Montagne". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London A. 200: 353–553. doi:10.1098/rsta.1903.0010.
  3. Read, H. H. (1948). "John Smith Flett. 1869-1947". Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society. 5 (16): 688–696. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1948.0006.
  4. "The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography". 2004. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/33178. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. family
  6. Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0 902 198 84 X.
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