Hugh Miller, born in Cromarty in 1802, was the son of a seaman who died at sea when Hugh was only five.
Miller went to Edinburgh in 1824 to work on the rebuilding of the city after the great fire. However dust from sandstone damaged his lungs and he had to return to Cromarty to recuperate.
His recuperation complete, he was eventually to go back to Edinburgh and start work as a bank clerk. His interest in geology was growing and in his spare time he examined the rocks of West Lothian for fossils and he became close friends with the great geologist Sir Roderick Murchison.
Miller wrote extensively of his interest in matters geological. Indeed his works -written in an accessible style- did much to popularise the subject. But he wrote also on ecclesiastical matters and his railings against patronage brought him to the attention, Donnachie (2001) says, of the "evangelicals in the Church of Scotland."
In due course Miller would become editor of THE WITNESS, a paper that supported church reforms and he was very much to the fore in the Disruption of 1843 that spawned the Free Church.
But his reforming zeal led him to speak out on other, more social matters. In particular his tract of 1843, "Sutherland as it was and is", denounced the Countess of Sutherland (who was by then dead) and the Clearance policies that had been continued by her son. They were guilty of ending a way of life, he said.
Tragically Miller committed suicide in 1856. It is routinely said that he was driven to take his own life by inner turmoil about the conflict between religion and science. However Knell and Taylor (2006) insist that Miller in fact saw science and religion as "different facets of the same truth."
In any case Miller deserves to be remembered as a brilliant self taught geologist and as a principled reformer. Most of his fossil collection is in the National Museum of Scotland. His birthplace in Cromarty is now also a museum.