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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.
  • Bat-Pterodactyls


    Italian Cosimo Alessandro Collini (1727-1806), at the time chairman of the Cabinet of Curiosities of the principality of Pfalz (Germany), was the first naturalist to speculate about pterodactyls in 1784. Fig.1. Pterodactylus antiquus (Upper Jurassic, Eichstätt, Bavaria), specimen studied by Cosimo Collini in 1784 and copper engraving of the fossil to illustrate his scientific study [...]

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    Geologist’s Nightmares


    Adventurer Roy Chapman Andrews mentions in an article published in 1922 in the “Asia Magazine” and later in his book “On the Trail of Ancient Man” (1926), a strange creature, said to inhabit the Gobi-desert in Mongolia: “Then the Premier asked that, if it were possible, I should capture for the Mongolian government a specimen [...]

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    EQLs Vs. UFOs


    “Swamp gas?” Mulder, F.W. in the “X-Files ” (1993) Summer is traditionally Silly Season, when newspapers publish strange stories about aliens and monsters again and again to bridge holiday time – and so will July on “History of Geology” be dedicated to frivolous science stories… Earthquake Lights – or short EQLs – seem to be [...]

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    Geology and Generals: How Geology influenced the Battle of Gettysburg (Part II.)


    “With regard to precipitous heights, if you are beforehand with your adversary, you should occupy the raised and sunny spots, and there wait for him to come up.” The Art of War, by Sun Tzù The battleground of Gettysburg was shaped by ancient tectonic movements, sediments transported by rivers and deposited in lakes and finally [...]

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    Geology and Generals: How Geology influenced the Gettysburg Campaign (Part I.)


    “Hence the saying: If you know the enemy and know yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt; if you know Heaven and know Earth, you may make your victory complete.” The Art of War, by Sun Tzù In 1863, after more than two years of Civil War, the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia launches [...]

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    Star Wars Geology

    “There are no good wars, with the following exceptions: the American Revolution, World War II, and the Star Wars Trilogy.” Bart Simpson in “Bart the General” (1990) Geology played a role in many past conflicts, but can war – even if only a fictional future war – play a role in geological fieldwork? The film [...]

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    Battlefield Earth – the Geological Legacy of War

    It was during the first World War that the impact of human warfare on the landscape exponentially  increased. Large armies equipped with the most advanced military technology- especially the high energy explosives evolved rapidly – devastated entire landscapes along the Western Front, stretching from the English Channel to the Swiss mountains. One of the most [...]

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    June 6, 1944: The Geology of D-Day

    Into the Jaws of Death, by Robert F. Sargent (1944)

    June 6, 1944 – in planning for D-Day – also geology was considered, as aerial photographs of the shores of Normandy were studied to find suitable landing sites for the invasion. The confluence of larger rivers with the English Channel between the harbors of Le Havre and Cherbourg created sandy shorelines were a landing with [...]

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    Cabinet of Curiosities #5: The Lost World


    This Week Geohistory: May 23, 1707: Birthday of botanist Carl Linnaeus, his famous classification system for the natural world (the binomial nomenclature) included also minerals, as he himself was also interested in mining geology, and influenced later more famous geologists, like Abraham Gottlob Werner. He also published a first textbook on geological fieldwork, in his [...]

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    The mythical Fire-Mountains of the Cascades


    The west coast of the U.S. is not only characterized by earthquakes and related myths, but also by volcanoes and also these natural phenomena became incorporated in supernatural stories. Many mountains of the Cascade Range were feared by local tribes. The Canadian artist Paul Kane (1810-1871), who visited Mount St. Helens, wanted to climb the [...]

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