Geologic time scale

geologic timescalegeologic timeperiod
A major shift in thinking came when James Hutton presented his Theory of the Earth; or, an Investigation of the Laws Observable in the Composition, Dissolution, and Restoration of Land Upon the Globe before the Royal Society of Edinburgh in March and April 1785. John McPhee asserts that "as things appear from the perspective of the 20th century, James Hutton in those readings became the founder of modern geology". Hutton proposed that the interior of Earth was hot, and that this heat was the engine which drove the creation of new rock: land was eroded by air and water and deposited as layers in the sea; heat then consolidated the sediment into stone, and uplifted it into new lands.

Deep time

geological timegeologically recentdeep past
As mathematician John Playfair, one of Hutton's friends and colleagues in the Scottish Enlightenment, remarked upon seeing the strata of the angular unconformity at Siccar Point with Hutton and James Hall in June 1788, "the mind seemed to grow giddy by looking so far into the abyss of time". Early geologists such as Nicolas Steno (1638-1686) and Horace-Bénédict de Saussure (1740-1799) had developed ideas of geological strata forming from water through chemical processes, which Abraham Gottlob Werner (1749–1817) developed into a theory known as Neptunism, envisaging the slow crystallisation of minerals in the ancient oceans of the Earth to form rock.

Cross-cutting relationships

principle of cross-cutting relationshipscross-cutscross-cutting
Hutton, James. Theory of the Earth, 1795. Lyell, Charles. Principles of Geology, 1830.

Age of the Earth

formation of the EarthEarthage of Earth
Nicolas Steno in the 17th century was one of the first naturalists to appreciate the connection between fossil remains and strata. His observations led him to formulate important stratigraphic concepts (i.e., the "law of superposition" and the "principle of original horizontality"). In the 1790s, William Smith hypothesized that if two layers of rock at widely differing locations contained similar fossils, then it was very plausible that the layers were the same age. William Smith's nephew and student, John Phillips, later calculated by such means that Earth was about 96 million years old.


Nicolas Steno (1638–1686) is credited with the law of superposition, the principle of original horizontality, and the principle of lateral continuity: three defining principles of stratigraphy. The word geology was first used by Ulisse Aldrovandi in 1603, then by Jean-André Deluc in 1778 and introduced as a fixed term by Horace-Bénédict de Saussure in 1779. On the controversy regarding whether Deluc or Saussure deserves priority in the use the term "geology": William Smith (1769–1839) drew some of the first geological maps and began the process of ordering rock strata (layers) by examining the fossils contained in them. James Hutton (1726-1797) is often viewed as the first modern geologist.

Internet Archive

Archive.orgWayback Machinearchived
The Internet Archive is an American digital library with the stated mission of "universal access to all knowledge." It provides free public access to collections of digitized materials, including websites, software applications/games, music, movies/videos, moving images, and millions of public-domain books. In addition to its archiving function, the Archive is an activist organization, advocating for a free and open Internet.

Linda Hall Library

Linda Hall Library of Science Library
The Linda Hall Library is a privately endowed American library of science, engineering and technology located in Kansas City, Missouri, sitting "majestically on a 14 acre urban arboretum." It is the "largest independently funded public library of science, engineering and technology in North America" and "among the largest science libraries in the world."

Flood geology

vapor canopyBiblical flooddiluvialism
In 1616 Nicolas Steno showed how chemical processes changed organic remains into stone fossils. His fundamental principles of stratigraphy published in 1669 established that rock strata formed horizontally and were later broken and tilted, though he assumed these processes would occur within 6,000 years including a worldwide Flood. In his influential Principles of Philosophy of 1644, René Descartes applied his mechanical physical laws to envisage swirling particles forming the Earth as a layered sphere.

Timeline of geology

This book acts as the standard mining and assaying text for the next 250 years. 1596 – Abraham Ortelius, Flemish-Spanish cartographer, first envisages the continental drift theory. 1603 – Ulisse Aldrovandi coins the term Geology. 1669 – Nicolas Steno puts forward his theory that sedimentary strata had been deposited in former seas, and that fossils were organic in origin. 1701 – Edmond Halley suggests using the salinity and evaporation of the Mediterranean to determine the age of the Earth. 1743 – Dr Christopher Packe produces a geological map of south-east England. 1746 – Jean-Étienne Guettard presents the first mineralogical map of France to the French Academy of Sciences. 1760 – John Michell

Historical geology

geological historyPaleogeologistpaleogeology
Nicolaus Steno, also known as Niels Stensen, was the first to observe and propose some of the basic concepts of historical geology, called the "father of geology". One of these concepts was that fossils originally came from living organisms. The other, more famous, observations are often grouped together to form the laws of stratigraphy. James Hutton and Charles Lyell also contributed to early understanding of the Earth's history with their observations at Edinburgh in Scotland concerning angular unconformity in a rock face and it was in fact Lyell that influenced Charles Darwin greatly in his theory of evolution by speculating that the present is the key to the past.

Asimov's Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology

Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology
Asimov's Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology is a history of science by Isaac Asimov, written as the biographies of over 1500 scientists. Organized chronologically, beginning with Imhotep (entry "[1]") and concluding with Stephen Hawking (entry "[1510]"), each biographical entry is numbered, allowing for easy cross-referencing of one scientist with another. Nearly every biographical sketch contains links to other biographies.

Antiquarian science books

antiquarian booksscientific publications
Hutton, James (Scotland). Theory of the Earth. Edinburgh, 1788. Geology. Lavoisier, Antoine (France). Traité Élémentaire de Chimie (Elements of Chemistry). Paris, 2 Vol, 1789. Chemistry. Galvani, Luigi (Italy). De viribus electricitatis in motu musculari commentarius Bologna, 1791. Electricity. Legendre, Adrien-Marie (France). Essai sur la théorie des nombres. Paris, 1798. Number theory. Jenner, Edward (England). An Inquiry into the Causes and Effects of the Variolæ Vaccinæ. 1798. Immunology. Wessel, Caspar (Norway). Om directionens analytiske betegning. Copenhagen, 1799. Imaginary numbers. Ruffini, Paolo (Italy). Teoria generale dele equazioni, in cui si dimostra impossibile.

History of biology

biologyhistorybasis of life
Debate over another flood, the Noachian, catalyzed the development of paleontology; in 1669 Nicholas Steno published an essay on how the remains of living organisms could be trapped in layers of sediment and mineralized to produce fossils. Although Steno's ideas about fossilization were well known and much debated among natural philosophers, an organic origin for all fossils would not be accepted by all naturalists until the end of the 18th century due to philosophical and theological debate about issues such as the age of the earth and extinction.

History of geology

early geologydevelopment of the sciencedevelopment of the science of geology
An important pioneer in the science was Nicolas Steno. Steno was trained in the classical texts on science; however, by 1659 he seriously questioned accepted knowledge of the natural world. Importantly, he questioned the idea that fossils grew in the ground, as well as common explanations of rock formation. His investigations and his subsequent conclusions on these topics have led scholars to consider him one of the founders of modern stratigraphy and geology. (Steno, who became a Catholic as an adult, was eventually made a bishop, and was beatified in 1988 by Pope John Paul II. Therefore, he is also called Blessed Nicolas Steno.)

History of science

historian of sciencemodern sciencehistory
These early geologists also proposed a generalized interpretations of Earth history that led James Hutton, Georges Cuvier and Alexandre Brongniart, following in the steps of Steno, to argue that layers of rock could be dated by the fossils they contained: a principle first applied to the geology of the Paris Basin. The use of index fossils became a powerful tool for making geological maps, because it allowed geologists to correlate the rocks in one locality with those of similar age in other, distant localities.

List of geologists

Nicolas Steno (1638–1686), Danish, pioneer in early-modern geology, especially in stratigraphy. Iain Stewart (born 1964), British, presenter of several television series on geology. Clifford H. Stockwell (1897–1987), Canadian structural geologist, Geological Survey of Canada, Logan Medal winner. David Strangway (1934-2016), Canadian, geophysicist and university administrator, Logan Medal award. K. Hugo Strunz (1910–2006), German mineralogist, co-creator of the Nickel–Strunz classification. Eduard Suess (1831–1914), Austrian (born England), named Gondwanaland. Peter Szatmari, Hungarian-Brazilian geologist, Gold Medal award, Sociedade Brasileira de Geologia.

Early modern period

early moderncolonial eraearly modern era
Early on, Nicolas Steno proposed the law of superposition in 1669, and various writers in the history of geology began to question the notion derived from the Christian Bible that the Earth was only about 6,000 years old and relatively unchanged over time. Steno and James Hutton are often considered founders of the modern field. The study of fossils and rock types became systematic.

List of Catholic clergy scientists

List of Roman Catholic scientist-clericsList of Jesuit scientistsList of Roman Catholic cleric-scientists
These churchmen-scientists include Nicolaus Copernicus, Gregor Mendel, Georges Lemaître, Albertus Magnus, Roger Bacon, Pierre Gassendi, Roger Joseph Boscovich, Marin Mersenne, Bernard Bolzano, Francesco Maria Grimaldi, Nicole Oresme, Jean Buridan, Robert Grosseteste, Christopher Clavius, Nicolas Steno, Athanasius Kircher, Giovanni Battista Riccioli, William of Ockham, and others listed below. The Catholic Church has also produced many lay scientists and mathematicians. The Jesuits in particular have made numerous significant contributions to the development of science.


Catholic priest Nicholas Steno established the theoretical basis for stratigraphy when he introduced the law of superposition, the principle of original horizontality and the principle of lateral continuity in a 1669 work on the fossilization of organic remains in layers of sediment. The first practical large-scale application of stratigraphy was by William Smith in the 1790s and early 19th century. Known as the "Father of English geology", Smith recognized the significance of strata or rock layering and the importance of fossil markers for correlating strata; he created the first geologic map of England.


James Hutton is often viewed as the first modern geologist. In 1785 he presented a paper entitled Theory of the Earth to the Royal Society of Edinburgh. In his paper, he explained his theory that the Earth must be much older than had previously been supposed to allow enough time for mountains to be eroded and for sediments to form new rocks at the bottom of the sea, which in turn were raised up to become dry land.

Apostolic Vicariate of Northern Germany

Apostolic Vicariate of the Nordic MissionsVicariate Apostolic of the Northern MissionsVicariate Apostolic of the Nordic Missions
Apostolic Prefecture of Norway (est. on 7 August 1868). 1667–1676:. 1677–1686: Nicolas Steno. 1680–1683: Ferdinand von Fürstenberg (for Bremen, Halberstadt, Magdeburg and the Mecklenburgian duchies, former dioceses of Ratzeburg and Schwerin), simultaneously Prince-Bishop of Paderborn (1661–1683) and Münster (1678–1683, died). 1687–1696: Friedrich von Tietzen called Schlüter. 1697–1702:, simultaneously Prince-Bishop of Hildesheim (1688–1702, died). 1702–1713:. 1713–1715: Sede vacante. 1715–1716:. 1716–1718: Sede vacante. 1718–1719: (died in 1719), simultaneously auxiliary bishop of Osnabrück and bishop of the titular see of Heliopolis in Augustamnica. 1719–1722: Sede vacante. 1722–1761:, simultaneously


uniformitarianuniformity of naturePrinciple of uniformity
In 1785 James Hutton proposed an opposing, self-maintaining infinite cycle based on natural history and not on the Biblical account. "The solid parts of the present land appear in general, to have been composed of the productions of the sea, and of other materials similar to those now found upon the shores.


Edinburgh, ScotlandCity of EdinburghEdinburgh, United Kingdom
Other names connected with the city include Max Born, physicist and Nobel laureate; Charles Darwin, the biologist who propounded the theory of natural selection; David Hume, philosopher, economist and historian; James Hutton, regarded as the "Father of Geology"; Joseph Black, the chemist and one of the founders of thermodynamics; pioneering medical researchers Joseph Lister and James Young Simpson; chemist and discoverer of the element nitrogen Daniel Rutherford; Colin Maclaurin, mathematician and developer of the Maclaurin series, and Ian Wilmut, the geneticist involved in the cloning of Dolly the sheep just outside Edinburgh.

John Playfair

PlayfairDr John PlayfairJohn
Playfair's (1815) Explication de Playfair sur la théorie de la terre par Hutton. Playfair's (1802) ''Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory of the Earth. Playfair's (1815) Explication de Playfair sur la théorie de la terre par Hutton.

Scottish Enlightenment

EnlightenmentScottishEdinburgh Enlightenment
James Hutton (1726–97) was the first modern geologist, with his Theory of the Earth (1795) challenging existing ideas about the age of the earth. His ideas were popularised by the scientist and mathematician John Playfair (1748–1819). Prior to James Hutton, Rev. David Ure then minister to East Kilbride Parish was the first to represent the shells 'entrochi' in illustrations and make accounts of the geology of southern Scotland. The findings of David Ure were influential enough to inspire the Scottish endeavour to the recording and interpretation of natural history and Fossils, a major part of the Scottish Enlightenment. Edinburgh became a major centre of medical teaching and research.