Bretz's Flood: The Remarkable Story of a Rebel Geologist and the World's Greatest Flood

Bretz's Flood: The Remarkable Story of a Rebel Geologist and the World's Greatest Flood

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by John Soennichsen
     
 

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The land between Idaho and the Cascade Mountains is characterized by gullies, coulees, and deserts--in geologic terms, it is a wholly unique place on the earth. Legendary geologist J Harlen Bretz, starting in the 1920s, was the first to explore the area. Bretz, a former science teacher at Franklin High School in Seattle and then a professor at the University of

Overview

The land between Idaho and the Cascade Mountains is characterized by gullies, coulees, and deserts--in geologic terms, it is a wholly unique place on the earth. Legendary geologist J Harlen Bretz, starting in the 1920s, was the first to explore the area. Bretz, a former science teacher at Franklin High School in Seattle and then a professor at the University of Washington and later the University of Chicago, eventually formed the theory that the land was scoured in a virtual instant by a massive flood. His original thinking was rewarded with various forms of public and academic humiliation. In the mid-twentieth century, his theory sounded a bit too much like the biblical flood, and the scientific world wanting nothing to do with that sort of idea. (Ironically, Bretz was an avowed atheist, so this was hardly his inspiration.) Bretz's Flood tells the dramatic story of this scientific maverick-how he came to study the region, his radical theory that a huge flood created it, and how the mainstream geologic community campaigned to derail him from pursuing an idea that satellite photos would confirm decades later.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
J Harlen Bretz was an unusual geologist: more than a maverick-turned-icon, more than a conscientious and thorough field worker, and more than a demanding professor, he also had a remarkable sense of humor and the strength to persevere despite professional obloquy. Author Soennichsen (Live! From Death Valley) delivers a vivid portrait of the man whose pioneering work began by accident, when a 1921 summer field trip to the Cascade Mountains fell through. Instead, Bretz led his students on foot through the Washington Scablands around Spokane, and returned every summer after with his students and family to map, measure, and record the unique terrain-including the gigantic "ship" of eroded basalt at Grand Coulee and the dried remains of the world's largest waterfall. Bretz's conclusions, of a massive flood unlike anything ever observed, met with intense opposition (largely from those who never observed the Scablands in person). Only over time, and with the advent of aerial photography, were Bretz's ideas confirmed; it's now known that glacial Lake Missoula drained dozens of times, each time unleashing a vast flood across the Pacific Northwest. Soennichsen's book explores a fascinating life in science, and should have appeal for Pacific Northwesterners and science buffs. 20 b&w photos.
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From the Publisher
For the hardcover edition of Bretz's Flood: "This is a masterful story of the spirit of adventure as embodied by a man who, though almost forgotten today, was instrumental in bringing scientific inquiry out of the Victorian era and into the modern age

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781570617027
Publisher:
Sasquatch Books
Publication date:
06/01/2010
Sold by:
Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
365,854
File size:
3 MB

Meet the Author

John Soennichsen is the author of Live! From Death Valley. He lives in Cheney, WA.

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Bretz's Flood: The Remarkable Story of a Rebel Geologist and the World's Greatest Flood 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
chasbow More than 1 year ago
Having seen a fascinating PBS program several years ago about the cataclysmic glacial Lake Missoula floods that shaped the so-called scabland landscape of eastern and central Washington State, I was excited when I found out that this book had been written. Soennichsen's book is first-rate, written in a readable style that will appeal to science and general non-fiction buffs alike. Not being a geologist myself, I especially liked the author's technique of quoting a descriptive scientific passage and then stepping back to explain that concept with greater clarity so that any reader could understand it. Soennichsen's own map, drawings, and photographs are timely and illustrative as well. In the end, the story is driven by J(no period!) Harlen Bretz himself. Bretz's quirky personality and his dogged pursuit of scientific truth in the face of more conservative geologic opinions make this book not only an interesting biography but a detective story of sorts, too. The appeal of Soennichsen's book should not be relegated to those who live in the Pacific Northwest. The author, by deftly studying and researching his subject, has written a book with universal appeal that shows one man's tenacity, despite great odds. I highly recommend this book!