Thinking about the Earth: A History of Ideas in Geology

Thinking about the Earth: A History of Ideas in Geology

by David R. Oldroyd


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Thinking about the Earth: A History of Ideas in Geology by David R. Oldroyd

Not quite a history of geology, Thinking about the Earth is a history of the geological tradition of Western science. Beginning with a discussion of "organic" views of the earth in ancient cultures, David Oldroyd traverses such topics as "mechanical" and "historicist" views of the earth, map-work, chemical analyses of rocks and minerals, geomorphology, experimental petrology, seismology, theories of mountain building, and geochemistry. He brings us back to the idea that the earth may, in a sense, be regarded as a living entity, or at least that life is an essential feature of its behavior.

Oldroyd offers a broad-brush contribution to the history of ideas and theories about the earth, providing a general synthesis of what science-historians have written about the history of the earth sciences. He shows us that ideas about the earth have been changing constantly since the beginnings of geological science in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and indeed that ideas changed much more rapidly after the establishment of this science than in preceding centuries.

Thinking about the Earth does not assume previous knowledge of earth science. What it does require is an openness to the notion that an understanding of what geologists have to tell us today about the earth can be achieved by examining the evolving history of ideas in geology. This book will be of considerable interest to historians of science, historians of ideas, geologists, students of earth science, and general readers as well.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780485114324
Publisher: Continuum International Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/28/2000
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.06(h) x (d)

About the Author

David Oldroyd is Honorary Visiting Professor in the School of Science and Technology Studies, The University of New South Wales, Australia. His previous books include Darwinian Impacts, The Arch of Knowledge, and The Highlands Controversy.

Table of Contents





1. A Mythical and Living World: Ideas about the Earth in Antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance

2. Mechanical Theories of the Earth and Physico-Theology

3. The Beginnings of Geological Science: Detachment from Cosmogony and Mineralogy

4. Thoughts on Heat, Fire and Water

5. The Earth Surveyed and Geological Mapped: the Territorial Imperative

6. Geological Time and the Tempo of Geological Change

7. Thoughts about Climate. Glaciation and Carving the Earth's Surface

8. The Making of Mountains and the Pulse of the Earth

9. Thinking about Rocks and their Formation: Magma, Migma and All That Stuff

10. Thinking with Instruments: Earthquakes, Early Seismology and the Earth's Hidden Interior

11. Movement of Poles and Continents, or Getting Bigger?

12. Some Grander Ways of Thinking

13. Some Concluding Thoughts

Suggestions for Further Reading


Bibliography Index

What People are Saying About This

A comprehensive overview--more complete and more broadly philosophical than any other I know--of how peoples from prehistoric times to the present have tried to understand the earth on which we live. The book is well written, highly informative, and displays Oldroyd's muted but distinctly puckish sense of humor.

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