In any discussion of the historical development of what was later to be named Biostratigraphy it is often assumed that a modern basis for the subject had already been reached by the cumulative work in the subject up to 1815; culminating in that of William Smith (1769-1839) and Alexandre Brongniart (1770-1847). But to this time fossils had only been used to identify (and discriminate between) often repetitive lithological units or to establish a relationship between rock units in different areas. The practical demonstration that particular lithological units could be regularly subdivided with significant consequences, on the basis of their contained fossils was a later achievement over several generations. One of the first to free stratigraphical palaeontology from such a lithological control was the forgotten Englishman Louis Hunton (1814-1838).

In this paper Hunton's origins from a successful alum making family in the north-east of Yorkshire in the north of England and his short life and scientific work are described for the first time. The family business of alum making from the highly fossiliferous local alum shales, which were extracted open-cast, directly introduced Hunton to stratigraphical palaeontology. He followed up this work by study in London, where his pioneering paper was read to the Geological Society of London in 1836. He died less than 2 years later but had helped lay a foundation for major biostratigraphic advances by his insistence that only fossils collected in situ should be used in such work and then that the species, of especially ammonites, in his Yorkshire strata had particularly limited and invariable relative positions within that lithological sequence. His work is also compared with that of his contemporary W.C. Williamson and the conclusion reached that Hunton, because of his emphasis in the merits of ammonites, deserves more to be remembered as a pioneer of Jurassic biostratigraphy.

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