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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.
  • 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


    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


    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


    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


    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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    Alexander von Humboldt and the Hand-Beast


    The German naturalist F. W. H. Alexander von Humboldt (born September 14, 1769-1859) is remembered as great geographer and explorer (maybe his name is even the most common on topographic maps), but his early education focused on mining engineering (and economy, as wished by his mother) and he made some important contributions to geology, for [...]

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    Happy Birthday Plate Tectonics!


    September 7, marks the anniversary of the publication of an important paper, “Magnetic Anomalies Over Oceanic Ridges” (1964) describes the discovery of parallel stripes of magnetized igneous rocks along the ocean floor. These stripes are formed when lava pours out along the Mid-Ocean-Ridges, cools and solidifies and pushes aside older oceanic and continental crust. This [...]

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    The real Delving of the Dwarves


    “You fear to go into those mines. The dwarves delved too greedily and too deep“ In European folklore dwarves are often associated with mines and underground treasures, a myth also popularized by author J. R. R. Tolkien (1892-1973) with his underground city of  Khazad-dûm – the Delving of the Dwarves, a mining complex made by [...]

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    Poet and Paleontologist – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


    The German lawyer, author, poet, politician and artist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (born August 28, 1749-1832) was also a mining engineer and quite interested in geology and paleontology. In the year 1775, Goethe, already a highly regarded author, was invited to the court of Duke Carl August in the city of Weimar, where he will [...]

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    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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