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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.
  • It’s life, Charlie, but not as we know it – Charles Darwin and the search of early (Extraterrestrial) Life


    In August 1881 the journal “Science” published an article with a letter exchange by two amateur geologist – British Charles R. Darwin and the German Otto Hahn- discussing the possibility of extraterrestrial life. Just some years earlier Darwin had published a book “On Origin of Species” proposing that complex life forms descended slowly over time [...]

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    Happy Easter with a (fake) Dozen Dinosaur Eggs


    Roy Chapman Andrews was not only an intrepid explorer and palaeontologist, but also a gifted promoter. The Central Asiatic Expeditions were accompanied by cameras to document the entire work. As the conditions were most time prohibitive – relief from the burning sun was given only by frequent sandstorms – many scenes showing the discovery and [...]

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    Vitruvian Geology – Leonardo da Vinci and the Realistic Depiction of the Earth’s Surface


    In the Renaissance (1450-1600) architecture and pictorial arts, but also scientific disciplines like astronomy, physics and medicine, experienced a rebirth and important improvements – but what about geology? There were some lone geniuses in the earth sciences – Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci (born April 15, 1452-1519) recognized fossils as petrified remains of former living [...]

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    A Concise History of Geological Maps: The Harmony of Colors


    The first maps used symbols to characterize single outcrops; later maps introduced shaded areas to display the distribution of specific rock-types, but due the high printing-costs these maps were printed only in black & white, making them hard to read. Maybe the first colored map was hand drawn by the German mineworker and later mine [...]

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    A Concise History of Geological Maps: Mapping Noah’s Flood


    Sometimes a geological map supports an intriguing idea not by showing the rocks that are there, but by showing the rocks that aren’t there anymore, eroded by a flood of biblical proportions. “No one with an eye for land forms can cross eastern Washington in daylight without encountering and being impressed by the “scabland.” Like [...]

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    A Concise History of Geological Maps: Beneath this Map, there is an Igneous Idea


    In the 18th century the geological significance of volcanoes was (literally) a hot topic for naturalists – many considered volcanoes only as a local phenomenon, the visible fire feed by underground sulfur veins and the rocks found around them being the ashes of this combustion. Some naturalists considered volcanoes as natural valves of a large [...]

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    A Concise History of Geological Maps: From Outcrop to the first Map

    March 23, 1769 marks the birthday of pioneering stratigrapher William Smith, who is also credited with creating the first useful geological map, however like many other great accomplishments also Smith’s idea of depicting the distribution of rocks on a topographic map didn’t materialize out of nowhere. The German mining engineer Georgius Agricola (1494-1555) dedicated in [...]

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    Pompeii – a Geological Movie-Review : The Last Day of Pompeii


    It’s probably one of the most famous volcanic eruptions of all times – the 79 A.D. eruption of Mount Vesuvius – so may it surprises  that the exact day of this historic event is unknown. The date of August 24 given in all textbooks is based on two letters from the Roman author Pliny the [...]

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    William Buckland & The Noble Art of Coprology


    “Approach, approach, ingenuous youth, And learn this fundamental truth: The noble science of Geology is founded firmly in Coprology” P.B. Dunacn quoted in BUCKLAND, F. 1883  Coprolites, from the Greek “kopros” and “litos” (or dung-stone), can be regarded as a variety of ichnofossils (trace fossils), defined more precisely as fossilized, large biodepositional structures, documenting the [...]

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    Pompeii – a Geological Movie-Review : Introducing the Main Character


    The new movie “Pompeii” reconstructs one of the most famous volcanic eruptions in history with unprecedented “3D” special effects – but even the best visuals can’t help if the science is wrong – so how geological accurate is the movie? 1.Dramatis Persona Fig.1. Mount Vesuvius as reconstructed in the new film “Pompeii” (from the movie [...]

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