Jukes, Joseph Beete (1811–69), geologist, was born 10 October 1811 in Summerhill near Birmingham, only son of John Jukes, button manufacturer, and Sophie Jukes. He was educated at Merchant Taylor's School, Wolverhampton, and King Edward VI's School, Birmingham, before matriculating (1830) at St John's College, Cambridge, and graduating BA (1836) and MA (1841). Renouncing his intention to enter the church (his mother's wish), he decided to become a geologist. Originally inspired by his aunt, Sophie Jukes (1791–1873), his interest was nurtured by Adam Sedgewick (1785–1873), professor in geology at Cambridge, with whom he maintained a lifelong correspondence, addressing him as ‘my dear father’ (his natural father having died when he was 7). Jukes became a field geologist and travelling lecturer (1836–9) till his appointment as geological surveyor of Newfoundland (1839–40). At a time when there were no maps of the country, he produced a sketch map, published Report of the geological survey of Newfoundland (London, 1843), vividly described his experiences in Excursions in and about Newfoundland (London, 1842), and wrote lively letters to his relatives.
From 1842 to 1846 he served as naturalist aboard HMS Fly, sent to survey the coast of Australia and New Guinea, and published Narrative of the surveying voyage of HMS Fly (London, 1847), which included a chapter on the Great Barrier Reef – an early classic of Australian geology. His major contribution to that field was A sketch of the physical structure of Australia (London, 1850), which included the first geological map of the continent. He gave his collection of over 4,000 specimens (some of which were named after him) to the Geological Society and the British Museum; two mountains in Australia, and one in New Guinea, were named after him.
Returning to England, he became a member of the Geological Survey of Great Britain (1846–50). Perhaps the finest field geologist of his time, he mapped north Wales and the midlands; published a memoir, On the geology of the South Staffordshire coal field (1853, revised ed. 1858); and in 1866 was a member of the royal commission to inquire into the resources of the coal fields. According to a colleague referring to this period, ‘a more joyous, generous, kindly spirit lived not among us’ (Davies, 44).
With the promise of recording all the minutiae of field geology, which so delighted him, in the form of six-inch maps, he accepted the post of local director (from 1867 renamed director) of the Irish branch of the geological survey (1850–69). Under his direction the survey became thoroughly efficient and mapped in detail the geology of more than half of Ireland. 1,100 six-inch geological field maps were produced, which have assumed a central position in Irish geology. Important as a national geological inventory, they were photographed in 1982, are preserved in the Geological Survey of Ireland, and remain an invaluable archive describing the geology of Ireland. The survey also published 117 of the 205 one-inch maps needed to cover Ireland, a venture that set new standards of precision in Irish geological cartography. In association with these maps, ‘memoirs’ were published (each under the title ‘Explanations to accompany sheet . . .’), of which Jukes was editor and partial contributor. It was while working on the memoir relating to the valley of the River Blackwater around Cappoquin, Co. Waterford, that he began to reflect on the action of rivers on topography and their relationship to the underlying geological structure, which resulted in his most significant contribution to geology: ‘On the formation of some of the river-valleys of the south of Ireland’, which was published as an abstract in the Journal of the Geological Society of Dublin, x (1862–4), 51–2, 72–4, and fully in the Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London, xviii (1862), 378–403. Hailed as a pioneering contribution to the understanding of the making of the Irish landscape, it is of international relevance and recognised as a classic in geomorphology. The eminent American geologist G. K. Gilbert (1843–1918) named a mountain in the Henry range in Utah ‘Jukes Butte’ in honour of this contribution to the understanding of the origins of landforms.
From 1854 Jukes lectured in geology at the Government School of Science Applied to Mining and the Arts (renamed the Royal College of Science, 1867), and published several educational books on geology, including The student's manual of geology (1857, revised ed. 1862), which proved valuable as a reference work. His scientific papers and books are listed in the Royal Society's Catalogue of Scientific Papers, iii (1869), 588, and also in his Letters . . ., edited by his sister, C. A. Browne. His honours include FRS, MRIA (1852), FGS (London), and president of the (Royal) Geological Society of Dublin (1853, 1854).
His move to Ireland was not a happy one. According to his sister, it seems to have been a turning-point in his life; his letters lost their light-heartedness, as Jukes himself recognised in a letter (14 June 1852: ‘I hardly know whether it is the air of Ireland or the nature of the work here . . . but certainly much of the zest of life has departed’ (Browne, Letters, 462)). He never adapted to life in Ireland. From 1864 his health deteriorated; he suffered blackouts, amnesia, and depression, though he still managed to produce a small-scale Geological map of Ireland (1867), which became known as ‘Jukes's map’. On 8 May 1869, on the authority of his wife and two physicians, he was admitted to Hampstead House, Glasnevin, Dublin, a private psychiatric hospital where he died 29 July 1869. He was buried in St Mary's churchyard, Selly Oak, Warwickshire. He married (1849) Georgina Augusta Meredith; their wish for children was never fulfilled.