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From Barnes & NobleBarnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
The Seashell on the Mountaintop is a portrait of a rare genius, Nicolaus Steno, called "the founder of geology" because of his groundbreaking theories on the formation of the natural world. Steno began his career as an anatomist who refused to apply mere deductive reasoning to his experiments, insisting instead on empirical observation: Rather than fitting the facts to preconceived ideas, he adjusted his ideas to fit observable facts. When he applied his method to a mystery that had baffled the top scientific minds of his time -- why were the fossils of seashells found far from the sea? -- he reached a conclusion that would forever alter our understanding of the age of the earth.
In 17th-century Europe, the Church was the supreme authority, and the Old Testament the unquestioned source regarding the timetable of the earth. But for Steno, seashell fossils on mountaintops could be explained only in the context of a world old enough to have produced them, a world millions or perhaps even billions of years old. The most astounding twist in Steno's story was his decision to enter the priesthood just as his hypotheses began to cast doubt on the Bible's veracity as to the age of the earth. In time, Steno would rise to become a bishop, and he ultimately achieved sainthood in 1988. (Summer 2003 Selection)