112lect5 - GY 112 Lecture Notes D. Haywick (2006) 1 GY 112...

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GY 112 Lecture Notes D. Haywick (2006) 1 GY 112 Lecture Notes Birth of Geology as a Science Lecture Goals : A) The first “geologists” B) European geologists C) The 20 th Century Textbook reference: Levin 7 th edition (2003), Chapters 1,2; Levin 8 th edition (2006), Chapters 1, 2 plus other stuff you don’t have access to) A) The first geologists The first “geologists” didn’t have a clue about what geology was. They were our earliest ancestors and back then (say 100,000 years ago), they were mostly concerned with surviving in what was frequently an inhospitable world. They used “geology” to give them a big advantage over their competitors. Our ancestors used chert, and flint and other hard minerals to make tools that they could use to hunt and built with. It is a bit more difficult to determine who the first real geologists were (e.g., those people who went out into the world specifically looking for specific geological minerals, or geological processes). The Egyptians and Greeks were certainly aware of important minerals and building stones. If you are going to build the pyramids, you want to make sure that the building stones that you are using can support the weight of the structure. And the Romans were certainly aware of geological processes (especially those that killed people). Pliny the Younger is generally regarded as the first person to have recorded a volcanic explosion in all its glory. He provided an account of the demise of Pompeii and Herculanium during the AD79 eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. But when we talk about the birth of Geology as a science, we are referring to the first instances when scientific reasoning was applied to those processes that shape the Earth. For this, we need to turn to 17 th century Europe. B) European Geology Geology as a science, like all other sciences, was born in Europe. The first scientific principles of geology were based upon stratigraphic observations. Now you have to realize that in these early times, the age of the Earth was thought to be much younger than we now know it to be. In 1658, Arch Bishop James Ussher calculated through extrapolation from the bible that the earth was formed on October 23rd 4004 BC at precisely 9:00 am. So when people observed rocks (especially sedimentary rocks), they assumed that everything occurred more or less at the same time. Enter Nicolaus Steno (1638-1687; pictured left). He worked as a physician with a member of the Danish court of royalty. He also did a lot of walking in the country side. He observed strata in the vicinity during his walks which led him to formulate 3 important axioms;
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GY 112 Lecture Notes D. Haywick (2006) 2 1) The principle of superposition (a favorite from GY 111!) that states in any sedimentary succession that has not been overturned, the oldest strata occur on the bottom. 2) The principle of original horizontality
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This note was uploaded on 02/04/2012 for the course GLY 112 taught by Professor Haywick during the Spring '12 term at S. Alabama.

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112lect5 - GY 112 Lecture Notes D. Haywick (2006) 1 GY 112...

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