Rendiconti Online della Società Geologica Italiana - Vol. 62/2024

Clarence Bicknell (1842-1918): botanist, archaeologist, Esperantist, and... citizen geologist

Luca Barale1 & Marcus Bicknell2
1National Research Council of Italy, Institute of Geosciences and Earth Resources, Via Valperga Caluso 35, 10125 Torino (Italy).
2Clarence Bicknell Association (
Corresponding author e-mail:

Volume: 62/2024
Pages: 160-190


Clarence Bicknell (1842-1918) was an eclectic naturalist, archaeologist, artist and Esperantist. Born from a wealthy English family, in 1878 he moved to Bordighera on the Western Ligurian Riviera (Italy), where he spent the rest of his life and where, in 1888, founded the Museo Bicknell that still hosts a part of his collections. He was particularly versed in botany and made substantial contributions to the study of the local flora. However, Bicknell’s most significant scientific achievement is the systematic inventory and study of the prehistoric rock engravings of the Merveilles and Fontanalba valleys (Maritime Alps), to which he dedicated himself for twenty years, from 1897 until his death. Bicknell established relationships and maintained correspondence and collaboration with several scientists, including some geologists such as Alberto Pelloux (1868-1948), Federico Sacco (1864-1948), Arturo Issel (1842-1922), and Achille Tellini (1866- 1938). Over the years, Bicknell had also put together an important collection of Pliocene fossils —mainly molluscs— from various outcrops in Western Liguria. Bicknell willingly shared these fossils with the palaeontologists Luigi Bellardi and Federico Sacco and donated a large part of them to the Geological Museum of Torino. To acknowledge Bicknell’s contribution to the study of Pliocene faunas of Western Liguria, two Pliocene mollusc species were dedicated to him: the bivalve Aequipecten bicknelli Sacco, 1897 and the gastropod Epitonium bicknelli (Hornung, 1920).


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