Field of Science

History of Geology worth a History of Geology Award ?

"In now addressing my brother*-geologists - and under this term I would comprehend all who take an interest in the progress of a science whose problems are inseparably interwoven with the whole study of nature - I have been influenced by the conviction that it is good for us, as workers in the same field, occasionally to pause and question ourselves as to the ultimate bearing of our investigations."
David Page (1863): The Philosophy of Geology.
* I would also add sisters...

Callan Bentley from Mountain Beltway contacted me with the proposal to submit this blog to the Geological Society of America's Mary C. Rabbitt (appropriately) History of Geology Award and I'm very grateful that he regards my humble contributions to be worth of this attempt.
The blog became well accepted in his first year of business and I would thank fellow bloggers, readers and commentators for their encouragement in the past, present and future and prepared a short essay why I regard the history of geology (not only the blog) worth to be read and known:

Despite observations and the study of rocks have ancient roots, reaching back to the applied recognition of which stone was suitable to form an artefact or where precious metals could be gathered, geology as science and even as term was introduced (carefully) only in 1778:

"I mean here by cosmology only the knowledge of the earth, and not that of the universe. In this sense, "geology" would have been the correct word, but I dare not adopt it, because it is not in common use."
Jean-Andre de Luc (1778): Letters on Mountains.

Opening a modern text book we are confronted with models of the interior of the earth, how volcanoes work and rocks form, that earth is approximately 4,5 thousand million years old and fossils are scientific proof of ancient ecosystems in many ways stranger than fiction.
Often the simple enumerating of facts hide the true work to achieve this knowledge - even the modern classification of rocks -sedimentary, metamorphic and magmatic- had to be developed by the first naturalists in painful work and every student today would surpass in his knowledge about petrology the pioneers of geology like Hutton or Lyell easily.
Most lectures and books mention briefly geologists of the past, describing the major controversies, like the origin of rocks or the age of earth, and stating which of the supporters were wrong and which were right.
However Cuvier denied evolution only after carefully studying mummified animals where he didn't found the necessary differences to support the idea of variable species and Neptunists based their theory on available outcrops in Europe.
These claims were not formulated careless, but new additional data forced geologists to formulate new theories which better explained the observable facts, teaching the history of geology we can observe the very basic method of science in action, a method that often gets neglected when only facts and dat
a are presented.
The development of geology should cause admiration but also humbleness, the history show how ideas evolve and improve over time, how ordinary men and women led by passion deciphered the record written in the rocks, how modern professionals, students and amateurs based on older work must continue and improve on their own work.
There is still much new to be discovered and to be understood without rejecting completely the old.
The ability of geology to correct itself, to admit errors, is it greatest strength, not as many creationists and pseudo scientists claim to the public a weakness.

There is a second reason why studying events of the past should be at least of interest by geologists. Geological phenomena can sculpture the landscape and create incredible monuments, but also cause havoc and kill people. Knowing past events can help to improve hazard maps and improve mitigation measures.
Depictions and reports of past catastrophes can be useful for the geologist to u
nderstand how a volcanic eruption or a landslide work and provide information that models or simulations can't provide.

History shows us an ulterior change - early geologists asked other questions then we do today, there was a shift in what geology should deal with.
Modern geology developed also in response to the need for resources, like coal and metals, of the Victorian English society, today geology responds to even more needs by modern society. Geologist search for raw materials, they identify the soil parameters needed for construction works, they study geological threads and develop hazard maps for cities and as a response of human overexploitation of earth begin to develop plans not to exploit earth like in the past, but to protect non renewable resources like groundwater and preserve earth's habitats for life.

Fig.1. Geologists ask simply questions - like which is our place in geological time and space ?

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