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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.
  • 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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    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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