Close, Maxwell Henry (1822–1903), Church of England clergyman and geologist, was born 23 October 1822 in Merrion Square, Dublin, the eldest of the eleven children (eight sons and three daughters) of Henry Samuel Close, a partner in Ball's Bank, Dublin, and his wife, Jane, a daughter of Holt Waring, dean of Dromore, who was prominent in the Orange Order early in its history. Both parents were connected to other gentry and aristocratic families, especially in the north of Ireland, and several of his brothers became army officers. The family later owned Newtown Park House, Dublin. Close was educated at Weymouth and then at Trinity College Dublin (TCD), graduating Bachelor of Arts in 1846 and Master of Arts in 1867. He was ordained in the Church of England in 1848 and spent a year as curate in All Saints, Northampton. He was rector of Shangton in Leicestershire from 1849 to 1857, until his moral scruples about accepting a benefice from a lay patron caused him to resign. This decision must have caused some family awkwardness; he had been presented to the living by his cousin, who subsequently replaced him with first one and then another family member. Close was curate at Waltham-on-the-Wolds in Leicestershire from 1857 to 1861 and, after his father's death, returned to Dublin, where he occasionally took services at the church of the Magdalen asylum in Lower Leeson Street.
However, Close devoted himself in the main to geology, particularly to glaciation. He was one of the pioneers in this subject, and published several important papers, particularly one in 1866 on the general glaciation of Ireland. He travelled to the west of Ireland on geological field trips, developing in the process his interest in the Irish language and antiquities. In 1872 he published a joint paper with G. H. Kinahan (qv) on the glaciation of Iar-Connacht. He interpreted a number of widely separated geological features as results of glaciation, and concluded that Ireland had once been covered by a huge ice sheet. By analysing rock striations and the direction of drumlin ridges, he was able to determine the direction of ice-flow. In 1878–9 he was president of the Royal Geological Society of Ireland. He was elected a member of the Royal Irish Academy (RIA) on 13 May 1867, and was treasurer from 1878 until his resignation in 1903, when he had become too deaf to participate fully in business. He was also a member of the committee of the Royal Dublin Society (RDS). He used the pseudonyms John O'Toole and Claudius Kennedy when publishing works on astronomy and physics, in which he felt his opinions were those of an amateur, though with his knowledge of astronomy and of the Irish language he was able to be of considerable assistance to John O'Farrelly, who translated an Irish astronomical text into English in 1893. Close's detailed commentary was completed in 1901, though neither text nor commentary was then published. In 1897 he published his last paper, on granite boulders near Dublin. He was a supporter of free libraries and bequeathed sums in support of the Irish language and literature, as well as presenting many books and manuscripts to the library of the RIA. Close died, unmarried, in his rooms in Lower Baggot Street on 12 September 1903. He left £1,100 in his will to the RIA, provided they would begin publishing an Irish-language dictionary within ten years of his death. Carl Marstrander (qv) hurriedly prepared the first fasciculus and published it on 14 August 1913. Robert Lloyd Praeger (qv) considered Close ‘one of the most generous of men’, and noted his ‘hesitating and singularly courteous and modest manner’ (Praeger, 65).
More information on this entry is available at the National Database of Irish-language biographies (Ainm.ie).