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History of Geology

History of Geology


What rocks tell and how we came to understand it
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    David Bressan Freelance geologist dealing with quaternary outcrops interested in the history and the development of geological concepts through time. Follow on Twitter @David_Bressan.
  • Radioactivity and Earth´s Age

    JOYLE_1909_Radioactivity_Geology

    For a long time the apparent discrepancy between the age of earth and the age of the cosmos posed a great problem to geologists and astronomers alike. Geologists had calculated, using methods like erosion or sedimentation rates, ages for earth spanning from just three million to 15 billion years. Physicists and astronomers, based mostly on [...]

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    Earth’s Age and the Cosmic Calendar

    BRESSAN_Capo_Spartivento

    During  the 19th century geologists realized that earth was quite older than previously believed, however this discovery posed an even greater question: what about the universe?  Did earth (like some fundamental creationists believed and still believe) predate the cosmos, were  earth and the cosmos created at the same time or came earth later? Early geologists [...]

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    The Season of the Witch: Climate-Change and Witch-Hunt Through the Ages

    MOLITOR_1489_Witch_Weather

    August 3, 1562 a devastating thunderstorm hit central Europe, damaging buildings, killing animals and destroying crops and vineyards. The havoc caused by this natural disaster was so great, so unprecedented, that soon an unnatural origin for the storm was proposed. More alarming was the impression that it was not the only climatic anomaly at the [...]

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    A (Zombie) Toad-in-the-Hole?

    GOSSE_1861_Toad_in_the_hole

    May 8, 1733 two workers, Anders Halfwarder and Olof Sigräfwer, excitedly reported to superintendent Johan Gråberg, who was inspecting the quarry of Nybro near the village of Wamlingebo (Gotland, Sweden), a very strange discovery. While cutting large blocks of sandstone (of the 419Ma old Silurian Hamra-formation), Halfwarder spotted a frog sitting in the middle of [...]

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    Of Dragons and Geology

    SCHEUCHZER_1708_Itinera_alpine_Dragon_03

    Johann Jakob Scheuchzer (1672-1733) was a Swiss physician, but also quite interested in travels and natural sciences. He published his observations on the culture and natural world of the Alps as “Itinera per Helvetiae alpinas regiones facta annis 1702-1711“. In the introduction by the editor we read: “The name of Scheuchzer will be famous …[] [...]

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    Geologizing in the Realm of the Beast

    September 8, 1762 the young son of the Yolle‘s, herding the flock of sheep, disappeared near the village of Laval in the province of Dauphiné (France). Only the poor remains of the boy, partially eaten by a mysterious creature, were recovered. The pastor of Laval, named Raphaël, later described an encounter with this creature: “the [...]

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    The Strange Medical Case of the Radioactive Landslide

    BRESSAN_Koefels_landslide_1

    The landslide of Köfels (named after a small village in Tyrol) is one of the largest recognized landslides in the Alps – large enough to dam up a 92 meters (300 feet) deep prehistoric lake and divide in two the valley of Ötz. Wood fragments discovered during the construction of a gallery in the landslide [...]

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    Physician Paracelsus and early Medical Geology

    Agricola_1556_De_re_metallica_Ventilation

    Philippus Theophrastus Aureolus Bombastus von Hohenheim (1493-1541), better known as Paracelsus, is considered one of the most important mystics and physicians of all times. Some myths even claim he got his medical knowledge from the devil himself; in fact he studied the subterranean realm of earth to understand its effects on human health – one [...]

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    In Search Of… Darwin’s Cryptids

    CUVIER_1812_Megatherium

    First bones of this mysterious creature were discovered in 1787 near Rio Lujàn (Argentinia), collected and send to Spain two years later. Zoologist Juan Bautista Bru de Ramon (1740-1799) reconstructed the bones in 1795 as a mounted skeleton for the Real Gabinete de Historia Natural de Madrid, the royal cabinet of curiosities – the first [...]

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    Book Review: Island on Fire

    WITZE_2014_Laki_Cover

    Island on Fire: The extraordinary story of Laki, the volcano that turned eighteenth-century Europe dark By Witze, A. & Kanipe, J. PROFILE-BOOKS 224 pages | Hardcover 1st edition | April 2014 ISBN 978-178125-0044   Volcanoes are no unusual sight on Iceland and yet the eruption that started June 8, 1783 in the southern district of [...]

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