Unlike many other small villages in the UK, Lesmahagow has many claims to fame because of its location and geological heritage and due to many of its sometime residents having taken up influential roles in the history of the nation. Andrew C. Scott's family lived in the village for more than three centuries, and in At the Crossroads of Time he explores the fascinating story of this unassuming settlement.
More than 400 million years ago the earliest fishes swam in its lagoons together with giant sea-scorpions. The fossils of these amazing creatures are famous worldwide. The coals, formed from peats when the area lay across the equator, fuelled a number of revolutions in energy supply. Important to Scott is not simply the industrial ecology, but the networks of families and people who made the local community. Inventors from Lesmahagow designed new machines such as the pedal bike, and experimented with innovative industrial developments at New Lanark, bordering Lesmahagow on the River Clyde. Even the pioneering man-midwife William Smellie was born there.
The end of the nineteenth and early part of the twentieth century saw the remarkable increase in schooling for all the children of the village, inspired by one teacher in particular – Matthew Glover. His own children, James and Edward Glover, went on to distinguish themselves in the new academic discipline of psychology. However, it is one class of 1924 that catches the eye, with three boys going on to distinguish themselves, two becoming knights of the realm and one becoming a cabinet minister. Another village boy, John Cairncross, is best known as the fifth Cambridge spy.
Andrew C. Scott is Emeritus Professor of Geology in the Department of Earth Sciences at Royal Holloway, University of London. He obtained a B.Sc in Geology at Bedford College, University of London and a PhD in Palaeobotany at Birkbeck College, University before post-doctoral research at Trinity College, Dublin. His first teaching post was at Chelsea College, University of London and the department merged with Kings College and Bedford College Geology Departments to form the new Geology Department at Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, University of London in 1985. He was awarded a personal chair in Applied Palaeobotany in 1996. In 2001 he published a book on some of the geological drawings owned by Her Majesty the Queen, that were produced by Prince Federico Cesi and the Accademia dei Lincei in Italy between 1610 and 1630. He was awarded a D.Sc. by Royal Holloway in 2002. He held a visiting Professorship at Yale University in 2006-7. In 2007 he was given the Gilbert Cady award by the Geological Society of America. From 1996-2006 he was Director of Science Communication at Royal Holloway. His research has dealt with aspects of palaeobotany, palynology, coal geology, petrology and geochemistry and the geological history of wildfire. His work on charcoal in deep time had led to not only an understanding of the role of fire in the Earth System but also involved the use of charcoal in coal as an atmospheric oxygen proxy. He has appeared in numerous radio programmes for the BBC including In Our Time and The Forum. He has published more than 230 scholarly articles and written or edited 12 books. He is the lead author of the text-book Fire on Earth: An Introduction published by Wiley and his new book Burning Planet is Published by Oxford University Press in March 2018.