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History of Geology

The (Zombie-)Toad-in-the-Hole

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May 8, 1733 two workers, Anders Halfwarder and Olof Sigräfwer, reported excited 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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History of Geology

Of Dragons and Geology

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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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History of Geology

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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History of Geology

The Strange Medical Case of the Radioactive Landslide

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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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History of Geology

Physician Paracelsus and early Medical Geology

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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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History of Geology

In Search Of… Darwin’s Cryptids

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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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History of Geology

Book Review: Island on Fire

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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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History of Geology

Alexander von Humboldt and the Hand-Beast

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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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History of Geology

Happy Birthday Plate Tectonics!

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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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History of Geology

The real Delving of the Dwarves

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“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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