Worlds Before Adam: The Reconstruction of Geohistory in the Age of Reform

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Overview

The first detailed account of the reconstruction of prehuman geohistory, Martin J. S. Rudwick takes readers from the post-Napoleonic Restoration in Europe to the early years of Britain's Victorian age, chronicling the staggering discoveries geologists made during the period: the uncovering of the first dinosaur fossils, the glacial theory of the last Ice Age, and the meaning of igneous rocks, among others. Ultimately, Rudwick reveals geology to be the first of the sciences to investigate the historical dimension of nature.
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Editorial Reviews

New Scientist
We take for granted that Earth has a deep history divided into eras such as the Mesozoic, with its monstrous dinosaurs and catastrophic meteoroid impacts. But when and how was this geohistorical narrative established? This book, the sequel to Bursting the Limits of Time, is a masterly exploration of the nineteenth-century roots of this particular scientific revolution. Here Rudwick shows how scientists such as Georges Cuvier, William Buckland and Charles Lyell first revealed and then reconstructed a narrative for the Earth based on direct observation of rocks and fossils.

— Douglas Palmer

Nature
Rudwick's books are myth-busters. . . . Rudwick highlights an underappreciated, glorious advance in human thought, the documentation of which is a rather glorious achievement itself.

— Victor R. Baker

Times Higher Education
Magisterial...A thoroughly engaging and utterly sympathetic treatment of the notable figures who laid the foundation for modern geology in the period between 1820 and 1845, their inspirations and intellectual triumphs, and their stubbornly held misconceptions....With their highly individualistic flair and immense erudition, this volume and its predecessor are not just essential reading for any scientist; they are also landmark volumes in the history of ideas and a brilliant scholarly achievement.

— Keith Thomson

Science
Like its predecessor, Worlds Before Adam is the product of painstaking research. It appears dauntingly long but is a delight to read. Rudwick’s style is lucid and engaging throughout, and he is unfailingly courteous to his nonspecialist readers, ensuring that all terms and concepts are fully explained and avoiding unnecessary jargon. The book’s strictly chronological arrangement gives it a strong narrative thrust, and its many beautifully printed illustrations and generous quotations from original sources enhance the sense of primary contact with the evidence. . . . In these two graceful and judicious volumes, the culmination of a distinguished career, Rudwick has restored geology to its rightful historical place at the heart of modern scientific culture.

— Ralph O'Connor

Times Literary Supplement
Rudwick’s account follows on from his magisterial Bursting the Limits of Time, which painted an unrivalled portrait of geology’s first days as a tardy arrival to the high table of respectable sciences. . . . Rudwick’s book is a culmination of forty years of research into the history of geology, and seals his reputation as the doyen of the subject. His writing is always clear, often entertaining, unrelentingly scholarly, and, appropriately enough for geology, he leaves no stone unturned. . . . Any reader interested in the development of the concept of geological time should read Martin Rudwick’s book—one could argue that the awareness of deep time has changed human perception of our place in the cosmos more than any other discovery.

— Richard A. Fortey

History Today
Despite its length and the complexity of its subject, the book is wonderfully easy to read. Rudwick has a rare gift for talking neither down to nor over the head of the non-specialist reader: no prior knowledge of geology or its history is required and readers in a hurry will appreciate the clear summaries of ‘the story so far’ with which each of the thirty-six short and snappy chapters concludes. The story retains its fascination right up to the last page.

— Ralph O'Connor

Literary Review
Worlds Before Adam is rich and thought-provoking.

— Brenda Maddox

Geological Journal
Both [Rudwick's] books, indeed, read like Dickens novels; take time to read them at leisure and they will enrich your life. . . . For those who have read Bursting the Limits of Time, Worlds Before Adam probably needs no recommendation, since it maintains the same high standards. For those who haven’t, Worlds Before Adam might whet their appetite to read Bursting the Limits of Time. I hope this latest book will also attract the attention of many people from outside the Earth sciences, who thus can become aware of the fascination of geological discoveries.—Cor F. Winkler Prins, Geological Journal

— Cor F. Winkler Prins

H-Net Reviews
Rudwick's masterful volume provides a detailed account of the contrasting fortunes of fluvialists and diluvialists, uniformitarians and catastrophists, while also affording valuable insights into the nature of scientific thought; the roles of communication, travel, and fieldwork in the making of knowledge; and the importance of culture and religion in conditioning the reception and repudiation of scientific ideas. . . . An erudite and insightful sequel.

— Innes M. Keighren

Fossil News
Any student of paleontology or geology will need this book, if he or she is at all interested in the history of the science. . . . Rudwick has captuired the essence of the Age of Enlightenment, and the reader is left with a sense of the age in which these scientists were working, their difficulties, and the immensity of their discoveries.

— Greg Sweatt

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
A work of such excellence as to recommend it to anyone.

— Paul D. Brinkman

British Journal for the History of Science
Worlds before Adam is at once an important synthesis, a brilliant essay which bestows an immense scholarship upon an original and well-carried argument, and an elegantly written and composed book as pleasant to read as a novel. It will also stand as a reference book, easy to consult by anyone professionally or personally interested in geology and palaeontology and their historical and epistemological implications.

— Claudine Cohen

Zentralblatt fuer Geologie undPalaontologie
An ultimate source of knowledge on the history of geoscience in the early XIX century. . . . This book looks as classical as those old works by Buckland or Lyell discussed in its text. The reviewer recommends Rudwick's book for everyone in geology and palaeontology.

— D.A. Rubin

New Scientist - Douglas Palmer
"We take for granted that Earth has a deep history divided into eras such as the Mesozoic, with its monstrous dinosaurs and catastrophic meteoroid impacts. But when and how was this geohistorical narrative established? This book, the sequel to Bursting the Limits of Time, is a masterly exploration of the nineteenth-century roots of this particular scientific revolution. Here Rudwick shows how scientists such as Georges Cuvier, William Buckland and Charles Lyell first revealed and then reconstructed a narrative for the Earth based on direct observation of rocks and fossils."
Nature - Victor R. Baker
"Rudwick's books are myth-busters. . . . Rudwick highlights an underappreciated, glorious advance in human thought, the documentation of which is a rather glorious achievement itself."
Times Higher Education - Keith Thomson
"Magisterial...A thoroughly engaging and utterly sympathetic treatment of the notable figures who laid the foundation for modern geology in the period between 1820 and 1845, their inspirations and intellectual triumphs, and their stubbornly held misconceptions....With their highly individualistic flair and immense erudition, this volume and its predecessor are not just essential reading for any scientist; they are also landmark volumes in the history of ideas and a brilliant scholarly achievement."
Science - Ralph O'Connor
"Despite its length and the complexity of its subject, the book is wonderfully easy to read. Rudwick has a rare gift for talking neither down to nor over the head of the non-specialist reader: no prior knowledge of geology or its history is required and readers in a hurry will appreciate the clear summaries of ‘the story so far’ with which each of the thirty-six short and snappy chapters concludes. The story retains its fascination right up to the last page."
Times Literary Supplement - Richard A. Fortey
"Rudwick’s account follows on from his magisterial Bursting the Limits of Time, which painted an unrivalled portrait of geology’s first days as a tardy arrival to the high table of respectable sciences. . . . Rudwick’s book is a culmination of forty years of research into the history of geology, and seals his reputation as the doyen of the subject. His writing is always clear, often entertaining, unrelentingly scholarly, and, appropriately enough for geology, he leaves no stone unturned. . . . Any reader interested in the development of the concept of geological time should read Martin Rudwick’s book—one could argue that the awareness of deep time has changed human perception of our place in the cosmos more than any other discovery. "
Literary Review - Brenda Maddox
"Worlds Before Adam is rich and thought-provoking."
Geological Journal - Cor F. Winkler Prins
" Both [Rudwick's] books, indeed, read like Dickens novels; take time to read them at leisure and they will enrich your life. . . . For those who have read Bursting the Limits of Time, Worlds Before Adam probably needs no recommendation, since it maintains the same high standards. For those who haven’t, Worlds Before Adam might whet their appetite to read Bursting the Limits of Time. I hope this latest book will also attract the attention of many people from outside the Earth sciences, who thus can become aware of the fascination of geological discoveries." —Cor F. Winkler Prins, Geological Journal
H-Net Reviews - Innes M. Keighren
"Rudwick's masterful volume provides a detailed account of the contrasting fortunes of fluvialists and diluvialists, uniformitarians and catastrophists, while also affording valuable insights into the nature of scientific thought; the roles of communication, travel, and fieldwork in the making of knowledge; and the importance of culture and religion in conditioning the reception and repudiation of scientific ideas. . . . An erudite and insightful sequel."
Fossil News - Greg Sweatt
"Any student of paleontology or geology will need this book, if he or she is at all interested in the history of the science. . . . Rudwick has captuired the essence of the Age of Enlightenment, and the reader is left with a sense of the age in which these scientists were working, their difficulties, and the immensity of their discoveries."
Zentralblatt fuer Geologie undPalaontologie - D.A. Rubin
"An ultimate source of knowledge on the history of geoscience in the early XIX century. . . . This book looks as classical as those old works by Buckland or Lyell discussed in its text. The reviewer recommends Rudwick's book for everyone in geology and palaeontology."
Reports of the National Center for Science Education - Paul D. Brinkman
"A work of such excellence as to recommend it to anyone."
British Journal for the History of Science - Claudine Cohen
"Worlds before Adam is at once an important synthesis, a brilliant essay which bestows an immense scholarship upon an original and well-carried argument, and an elegantly written and composed book as pleasant to read as a novel. It will also stand as a reference book, easy to consult by anyone professionally or personally interested in geology and palaeontology and their historical and epistemological implications."
Science
"Like its predecessor, Worlds Before Adam is the product of painstaking research. It appears dauntingly long but is a delight to read. Rudwick's style is lucid and engaging throughout, and he is unfailingly courteous to his nonspecialist readers, ensuring that all terms and concepts are fully explained and avoiding unnecessary jargon. The book's strictly chronological arrangement gives it a strong narrative thrust, and its many beautifully printed illustrations and generous quotations from original sources enhance the sense of primary contact with the evidence. . . . In these two graceful and judicious volumes, the culmination of a distinguished career, Rudwick has restored geology to its rightful historical place at the heart of modern scientific culture."-Ralph O''Connor, Science

— Ralph O'Connor

Nature
"Rudwick''s books are myth-busters. . . . Rudwick highlights an underappreciated, glorious advance in human thought, the documentation of which is a rather glorious achievement itself."-Victor R. Baker, Nature

— Victor R. Baker

Times Higher Education
"Magisterial...A thoroughly engaging and utterly sympathetic treatment of the notable figures who laid the foundation for modern geology in the period between 1820 and 1845, their inspirations and intellectual triumphs, and their stubbornly held misconceptions....With their highly individualistic flair and immense erudition, this volume and its predecessor are not just essential reading for any scientist; they are also landmark volumes in the history of ideas and a brilliant scholarly achievement."-Keith Thomson, Times Higher Education

— Keith Thomson

New Scientist
"We take for granted that Earth has a deep history divided into eras such as the Mesozoic, with its monstrous dinosaurs and catastrophic meteoroid impacts. But when and how was this geohistorical narrative established? This book, the sequel to Bursting the Limits of Time, is a masterly exploration of the nineteenth-century roots of this particular scientific revolution. Here Rudwick shows how scientists such as Georges Cuvier, William Buckland and Charles Lyell first revealed and then reconstructed a narrative for the Earth based on direct observation of rocks and fossils."-Douglas Palmer, New Scientist

— Douglas Palmer

History Today
"Despite its length and the complexity of its subject, the book is wonderfully easy to read. Rudwick has a rare gift for talking neither down to nor over the head of the non-specialist reader: no prior knowledge of geology or its history is required and readers in a hurry will appreciate the clear summaries of 'the story so far' with which each of the thirty-six short and snappy chapters concludes. The story retains its fascination right up to the last page."-Ralph O''Connor, History Today

— Ralph O'Connor

Literary Review
"Worlds Before Adam is rich and thought-provoking."-Brenda Maddox, Literary Review

— Brenda Maddox

Times Literary Supplement
"Rudwick's account follows on from his magisterial Bursting the Limits of Time, which painted an unrivalled portrait of geology's first days as a tardy arrival to the high table of respectable sciences. . . . Rudwick's book is a culmination of forty years of research into the history of geology, and seals his reputation as the doyen of the subject. His writing is always clear, often entertaining, unrelentingly scholarly, and, appropriately enough for geology, he leaves no stone unturned. . . . Any reader interested in the development of the concept of geological time should read Martin Rudwick's book-one could argue that the awareness of deep time has changed human perception of our place in the cosmos more than any other discovery. "-Richard A. Fortey, Times Literary Supplement

— Richard A. Fortey

H-Net Reviews
"Rudwick''s masterful volume provides a detailed account of the contrasting fortunes of fluvialists and diluvialists, uniformitarians and catastrophists, while also affording valuable insights into the nature of scientific thought; the roles of communication, travel, and fieldwork in the making of knowledge; and the importance of culture and religion in conditioning the reception and repudiation of scientific ideas. . . . An erudite and insightful sequel."-Innes M. Keighren, H-Net Reviews

— Innes M. Keighren

Reports of the National Center for Science Education

"A work of such excellence as to recommend it to anyone."

— Paul D. Brinkman

British Journal for the History of Science

"Worlds before Adam is at once an important synthesis, a brilliant essay which bestows an immense scholarship upon an original and well-carried argument, and an elegantly written and composed book as pleasant to read as a novel. It will also stand as a reference book, easy to consult by anyone professionally or personally interested in geology and palaeontology and their historical and epistemological implications."

Geological Journal
" Both [Rudwick''s] books, indeed, read like Dickens novels; take time to read them at leisure and they will enrich your life. . . . For those who have read Bursting the Limits of Time, Worlds Before Adam probably needs no recommendation, since it maintains the same high standards. For those who haven't, Worlds Before Adam might whet their appetite to read Bursting the Limits of Time. I hope this latest book will also attract the attention of many people from outside the Earth sciences, who thus can become aware of the fascination of geological discoveries." -Cor F. Winkler Prins, Geological Journal

— Cor F. Winkler Prins

Fossil News
"Any student of paleontology or geology will need this book, if he or she is at all interested in the history of the science. . . . Rudwick has captuired the essence of the Age of Enlightenment, and the reader is left with a sense of the age in which these scientists were working, their difficulties, and the immensity of their discoveries."

— Greg Sweatt

Zentralblatt fuer Geologie undPalaontologie

"An ultimate source of knowledge on the histor
— D.A. Rubin

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226731285
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 7/1/2008
  • Pages: 648
  • Sales rank: 1,291,495
  • Product dimensions: 7.40 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 1.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Martin J. S. Rudwick is research associate in the department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge and professor emeritus of history at the University of California, San Diego. He is the author of Bursting the Limits of Time,The Meaning of Fossils, The Great Devonian Controversy, Scenes from Deep Time, and Georges Cuvier, all published by the University of Chicago Press. He was awarded the Sarton Medal of the History of Science Society in 2007.

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Table of Contents

List of illustrations

A note on footnotes, references, and quotations

Introduction 1

1 Cuvier's Model for Geohistory 11

2 Monsters from Deep Time 25

3 The New Stratigraphy 35

4 Outline of Life's History 47

5 Ancient Monsters on Land 59

6 Geological Deluge and Biblical Flood 73

7 The Role of Actual Causes 89

8 The Dynamic Earth 105

9 The Engine of Geohistory 121

10 The Tertiary Gateway 135

11 The Geologists' Time-Machine 147

12 A Directional History of Life 161

13 The Last Revolution 177

14 The Last Mass Extinction 193

15 The Centrality of Central France 209

16 Men Among the Mammoths? 225

17 The Specter of Transmutation 237

18 Lyell and Auvergne Geology 253

19 A Geological Grand Tour 267

20 Lyell in European Context 283

21 Geology's Guiding Principles 297

22 "The Huttonian Theory Rediviva" 315

23 Promoting Lyell's Principles 331

24 The Uniformity of Life 347

25 Completing Lyell's Principles 363

26 Geohistory in Retrospect 379

27 Challenges to Lyell's Geotheory 391

28 The Human Species in Geohistory 407

29 Buckland's Designful Geohistory 423

30 The Progression of Life 437

31 Imagining Geohistory 451

32 Lyell's Geotheory Dismembered 467

33 Actual Causes on Trial 483

34 Explaining Erratics 501

35 Snowball Earth? 517

36 Taking Stock for the Future 535

Concluding (Un)Scientific Postscript 553

Sources 567

1 Places and Specimens 557

2 Manuscripts 569

3 Printed Sources: Primary 570

4 Printed Sources: Secondary 590

Index 605

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