Charles Loomis Dana - Charles Lyell - Charles Lapworth - Archibald Geikie - Horizon TV - James Briden - Michael Mosley TV - Stephen Jay Gould - Kathy B Steele - Reinout Willem van Bemmelen - Adam Sedgwick - Phillip H Kuenen - Humphry Davy - Charles Darwin - John Muir - Joseph Barrell - William Humble - The Day the Dinosaurs Died TV -
All admit that the mountains of the globe are situated mostly along the border regions of the continents (taking these regions as 300 to 1000 miles or more in width), and that over these same areas the sedimentary deposits have, as a general thing, their greatest thickness. At first thought, it would seem almost incredible that the upliftings of mountains, whatever their mode of origin, should have taken place just where the earth’s crust, through these sedimentary accumulations, was the thickest, and where, therefore, there was the greatest weight to be lifted ... Earthquakes show that even now, in this last of the geological ages, the same border regions of the continents, although daily thickening from the sediments borne to the ocean by rivers, are the areas of the greatest and most frequent movements of the earth’s crust. Charles Loomis Dana, Observations on the Origin of Some of the Earth’s Features, September 1866
Geology is the science which investigates the successive changes that have taken place in the organic and inorganic kingdoms of nature; it enquires into the causes of these changes, and the influence which they have exerted in modifying the surface and external structure of our planet. Sir Charles Lyell, Principles of Geology 1830-3 1:1
Geology differs as widely from cosmogony, as speculations concerning the creation of man differ from history. ibid. 1:4
It must have appeared almost as improbable to the earlier geologists, that the laws of earthquakes should one day throw light on the origin of mountains, as it must to the first astronomers, that the fall of an apple should assist in explaining the motions of the moon. ibid. 3:5
All that comes above the surface [of the globe] lies within the province of Geography; all that comes below that surface lies inside the realm of Geology. The surface of the earth is that which, so to speak, divides them and at the same time ‘binds them together in indissoluble union’. We may, perhaps, put the case metaphorically. The relationships of the two are rather like that of man and wife. Geography, like a prudent woman, has followed the sage advice of Shakespeare and taken unto her an elder than herself; but she does not trespass on the domain of her consort, nor could she possibly maintain the respect of her children were she to flaunt before the world the assertion that she is a woman with a past. Charles Lapworth, Proceedings of the Geological Society of London 1903 59: lxx
Apart from its healthful mental training as a branch of ordinary education, geology as an open-air pursuit affords an admirable training in habits of observation, furnishes a delightful relief from the cares and routine of everyday life, takes us into the open fields and the free fresh face of nature, leads us into all manner of sequestered nooks, whither hardly any other occupation or interest would be likely to send us, sets before us problems of the highest interest regarding the history of the ground beneath our feet, and thus gives a new charm to scenery which may be already replete with attractions. Sir Archibald Geikie, Outlines of Field-Geology, 1900
In the Spring of 1896 Henry Bequerel’s discovery of radioactivity opened up a whole new dimension to geological dating of the Earth. Six years later Ernest Rutherford realised that the law of radioactive decay could be used to date rocks. Horizon: Message in the Rocks, BBC 1978
Sedimentary rocks provide evidence of the history of oceans. ibid.
It seems incredible to us now with hindsight that for at least fifty years geologists were aware of the geometric fit between continental edges. Professor James Briden, University of Leeds, interview BBC Horizon
The evidence for slow change was everywhere. Geologists looked at waterfalls, and saw how the constant flow of water had gradually eroded the surrounding rock. They saw how rain had inexorably worn away the tops of mountains. And how the slow movement of glaciers had carved out entire valleys. They came to realise that the single most important factor in why the world looks the way it does was Time. And lots of it. Michael Mosley, The Power of Science: Power, Proof & Passion, BBC 2010
In attempting to explain these mysteries [Alfred] Wegener would transform geology. Science would have to embrace a new very different history of life on Earth. (Geology & Earth & Change & Life) ibid.
It’s now clear that the story of life and the story of our planet which were once seen as separate are actually intrinsically linked. The evolution of new life has been driven by climate change, by asteroid impacts and by the slow motion collision of continents. It turns out that we and every other living creature are marching to the drumbeat of our violent planet. ibid.
No Geologist worth anything is permanently bound to a desk or laboratory, but the charming notion that true science can only be based on unbiased observation of nature in the raw is mythology. Creative work, in geology and anywhere else, is interaction and synthesis: half-baked ideas from a bar room, rocks in the field, chains of thought from lonely walks, numbers squeezed from rocks in a laboratory, numbers from a calculator riveted to a desk, fancy equipment usually malfunctioning on expensive ships, cheap equipment in the human cranium, arguments before a road cut. Stephen Jay Gould, An Urchin in the Storm: Essays about Books and Ideas
Geology gave us the immensity of time and taught us how little of it our own species has occupied. Stephen Jay Gould, Ever Since Darwin: Reflections on Natural History
I went into geology because I like being outdoors, and because everybody in geology seemed, well, they all seemed like free spirits or renegades or something. You know, climbing mountains and hiking deserts and stuff. Kathy B Steele, Rocks That Float
A geologist is a fault-finder. Anonymous, cited M Goran, A Treasury of Science Jokes, 1986
As geology is essentially a historical science, the working method of the geologist resembles that of the historian. This makes the personality of the geologist of essential importance in the way he analyzes the past. Reinout Willem van Bemmelen, ‘The Scientific Character of Geology’, The Journal of Geology July 1961 69 N
Geology is part of that remarkable dynamic process of the human mind which is generally called science and to which man is driven by an inquisitive urge. By noticing relationships in the results of his observations, he attempts to order and to explain the infinite variety of phenomena that at first sight may appear to be chaotic. In the history of civilization this type of progressive scientist has been characterized by Prometheus stealing the heavenly fire, by Adam eating from the tree of knowledge, by the Faustian ache for wisdom. ibid.
Considered as a mere question of physics, (and keeping all moral considerations entirely out of sight,) the appearance of man is a geological phenomenon of vast importance, indirectly modifying the whole surface of the earth, breaking in upon any supposition of zoological continuity, and utterly unaccounted for by what we have any right to call the laws of nature. Adam Sedgwick
Experimental geology has this in common with all other branches of our science, petrology and palaeontology included, that in the long run it withers indoors. Phillip H Kuenen, ‘Experiments in Geology’, Transactions of the Geological Society of Glasgow, 1958
Geology, perhaps more than any other department of natural philosophy, is a science of contemplation. It requires no experience or complicated apparatus, no minute processes upon the unknown processes of matter. It demands only an enquiring mind and senses alive to the facts almost everywhere presented in nature. And as it may be acquired without much difficulty, so it may be improved without much painful exertion. Sir Humphry Davy, Lectures on Geology, 1805
I find in Geology a never failing interest, as [it] has been remarked, it creates the same gran[d] ideas respecting this world, which Astronomy do[es] for the universe. — We have seen much fine scenery that of the Tropics in its glory & luxuriance, exceeds even the language of Humboldt to describe. A Persian writer could alone do justice to it, and if he succeeded he would in England, be called the ‘grandfather of all liars’. — But I have seen nothing, which more completely astonished me, than the first sight of a Savage; it was a naked Fuegian his long hair blowing about, his face besmeared with paint. There is in their countenances, an expression, which I believe to those who have not seen it, must be inconceivably wild. Standing on a rock he uttered tones & made gesticulations than which, the cries of domestic animals are far more intelligible. Charles Darwin, letter to Charles Whitley 23 July 1834
I wandered away on a glorious botanical and geological excursion, which has lasted nearly fifty years and is not yet completed, always happy and free, poor and rich, without thought of a diploma or of making a name, urged on and on through endless, inspiring Godful beauty. John Muir, The Story of My Boyhood and Youth, 1913