geology - 14 titles

Author:  Christopher Columbus (1451-1506)
Title/Imprint: The Letter of Columbus on the Discovery of America
De Vinne Press: New York , 1892

In April 1493, shortly after Columbus's return to Spain from his first voyage to the New World, a copy of his letter announcing the results of his travels was printed in Barcelona. Only one copy is now known to exist of this first printing and it resides at the New York Public Library. This work is a facsimile of the 1493 letter and was printed in 1892.


Author:  James Hutton (1726-1797)
Title/Imprint: Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, vol.1
Edinburgh , 1788

In this article, Hutton expounded his observations that led him to his belief in Uniformitarianism, the theory that the Earth's crust is due to geological process that occur pretty much uniformly over very long periods of time. This publication marked a turning point in geology as uniformitarianism became the dominant paradigm.


Author:  Georg Agricola (1494-1555)
Title/Imprint: De Re Metallica Libri XII (On metallurgy)
Hieron Frobenium et Nicolaum Episcopium: Basel , 1556

Agricola (his German name was Georg Bauer) is generally regarded as the "father of mineralogy." This work was published posthumously and his Agricola's magnum opus. It conains many details of mining and metallurgy and its illustrations give us a vivid picture of the state of mining in the sixteenth century.

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Author:  Eratosthenes
Title/Imprint: Phainomena kai Diosemeia
E. Theatro Sheldoniano: Oxford , 1672

Eratosthenes, a director of the great Library at Alexandria, is best rememberd for his calculation of the circumference of the Earth. He did this by noticing the difference in the angles of shadows cast by gnomons at Alexandria and Syene. His result is remarkably close to our modern value. This work is based on a manuscript containing fragments of texts by Eratosthenes and others and was edited and annotated by John Fell of Oxford.


Author:  Nicolaus Steno (1638-1686)
Title/Imprint: De Solido Intra Solidum Naturaliter Contendo Dissertationis Prodromus
Ex typographia sub signo stellae: Florence , 1669

Steno (Niels Stensen) was trained as a physician and in 1665 became the doctor to Grand Duke Ferdinand II in Florence. While in Tuscany he studied the local geology and came to the conclusion that the strata of the Earth's crust tell a chronological story of its formation. He surmised that horizontal strata were caused by sedimentation while more vertical strata were due to violent upheavals. In this work he also asserted that fossils were the remains of ancient living organisms.


Author:  Abraham Gottlob Werner (1749-1817)
Title/Imprint: Von den Äusserlichen Kennzeichen der Fossilien
Siegfried Lebrecht Crusius: Leipzig , 1774

Werner was the champion of a geological theory known as Neptunism, in which he believed that all all minerals precipitated out of water. Neptunists were opposed to believers of Vulcanism, a theory that espoused the igneous origin of rocks.


Author:  William Smith (1769-1847)
Title/Imprint: Strata Identified by Organized Fossils
W. Arding: London , 1816-19

These volumes were the beginnings of an unfinished series in which Smith demonstrated that different geological strata contained different sets of fossils. By looking for specific fossils, Smith (considered the "father of stratigraphy") could track specific strata over a large geographic area.


Author:  Charles, Sir Lyell (1797-1875)
Title/Imprint: Principles of Geology, Being an Attempt to Explain the Former Changes of the Earth's Surface, by Reference to Causes Now in Operation
3 vols.; John Murray: London , 1830-33

Lyell's classic work developed Huttons uniformitarian theory and brought it into full acceptance by geologists. Through a mass of facts, Lyell demonstrated that natural processes that occur on Earth today are sufficient to explain how the Earth's crust came to be in its current condition. He also argued that, since these processes work so slowly, the geological development of the Earth has taken an immense amount of time.


Author:  Roderick Impey, Sir Murchison (1792-1871)
Title/Imprint: The Silurian System
3 vols.; John Murray: London , 1839

Murchison's study of Welsh stratigraphy resulted in this work, in which he established a coherent grouping of geological formations found elsewhere into one system, which he named the Silurian system (after a local Welsh tribe). His Silurian sytem was eventually split up into three geolgical periods: the Cambrian, Ordovician, and Silurian periods.


Author:  Louis Agassiz (1807-1873)
Title/Imprint: Études sur les Glaciers
Jent et Gassmann: Neuchâtel , 1840

In 1836, Agassiz began studying the glaciers in his native Switzerland and built a hut upon the Aar glacier to study its movements and structure. In this important work, Agassiz demonstrated that Switzerland had at one time been covered by one vast ice sheet similar to those in Greenland today.


Author:  Eduard Suess (1831-1914)
Title/Imprint: Das Antlitz der Erde
3 vols. in 4 pts.; F. Tempsky and G. Freytag: Prag and Leipzig , 1883-1909

Suess' great treatise took twenty-four years to publish and it marks the beginnings of paleogeography and the concept of what we now call plate tectonics. Suess expounded on the structure and evolution of the Earth's crust and even suggested that the African rift valleys are places where the crust is moving outwards.


Author:  Lazarus Ercker (d.1594)
Title/Imprint: Beschreibung Allerfürnemisten Mineralischen Ertzt unnd Berckwercks Arten
Georgen Schwartz: Prague , 1574

Ercker's great work is reminiscent of Agricola's De re metallica in its graphics and descriptions of early mining and metallurgy. Only two copies of this edition exist in the Americas and it contains useful information on assaying, refining metals, and extraction of many different compounds.


Author:  Adolphe Brongniart (1801-1876)
Title/Imprint: Histoire des Végétaux Fossiles, ou Recherches Botaniques et Géologiques
2 vols.; G. Dufour & Ed. D'Ocagny: Paris & Amsterdam , 1828-37

Brongniart, the founder of modern paleobotany, classified fossil plants into categories and made connections between them and existing plants. This allowed him to make useful observations on the modifications of plant forms well before Darwin's theory of evolution came into being.


Author:  René Just Haüy (1743-1822)
Title/Imprint: Essai d'une Théorie sue la Structure des Crystaux
Gogué & Née de la Rochelle: Paris , 1784

Haüy is regarded by many as the founder of the science of crystallography. In this work he published his first theory of the structure of crystals.