Category Archives: History

A History of the Use of Illustrations in the Geosciences: I. Seeing is Believing…

The progress made in understanding realistic landscape-views and the rediscovery of ancient encyclopedias (like the works by Pliny the Elder) inspired Renaissance naturalists to adopt an exact and systematic approach to describe the curiosities found in the natural world. As … Continue reading

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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 … Continue reading

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When Rock Classification was hard…

Talc – Gypsum – Calcite – Fluorite – Apatite – Feldspar – Quartz – Topaz – Corundum – Diamond –  “Mohs Scale of Mineral Hardness ” should be familiar to rock-hounds and earth-science students alike […] Keep reading »

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A.R. Wallace on Geology, Great Glaciers and the Speed of Evolution

When Charles Darwin published “The Origin of Species” in November 1859 geologists were still discussing the age of the earth. Deep time was an essential prerequisite to explain the recent biodiversity by gradual and slow changes in the remote past.  … Continue reading

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Newton’s Philosopher’s Stone

“the magisterium“the magisterium, our great work, the stone” “The Alchemist” Act 1. Scene 4 Today we remember Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) for his contributions to optics, mechanics and astronomy, but as a typical scholar of his time he was also … Continue reading

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Granite Wars – Episode II

“Inside the globe [there] exist mysterious forces, whose effects become apparent on the surface. Eruptions of vapors, glowing lava and new volcanic rocks…[]” Alexander von Humboldt At the end of the 19th century and after the victory of “Plutonism” in … Continue reading

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Granite Wars – Episode I: Fire & Water

In 1820 the Italian engineer Count Giuseppe Marzari-Pencati (1779-1836) published a short article about the stratigraphic succession found near the small village of Predazzo. At the “Canzoccoli” -outcrop Pencati observed a grayish granitic rock overlying white marbles. What today is … Continue reading

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Geologizing Asses

“Humanity’s genius is to have always had a sense of its weakness. The physical energy and strength, with which nature insufficiently endowed humans, is found in animals that help them to discover new territories.” Thanks to this special kit and … Continue reading

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In Search of Punt

May 9, 1871 after a one year long search, the German geologist Karl Mauch finally spotted  was he had hoped for:  the ruins of gigantic buildings of stone – the remains of a long lost city, at least for the … Continue reading

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June 8, 1783: How the “Laki-eruptions” changed History

“The sun fades away, the land sinks into the sea, the bright stars  disappear from the sky, as smoke and  fire  destroy  the world, and the flames reach the sky.” The End of the World according to the “Völuspa“, a … Continue reading

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