Chapter

The Engine of Geohistory (1824–29)

in Worlds Before Adam

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print July 2008 | ISBN: 9780226731285
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226731308 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226731308.003.0010
The Engine of Geohistory (1824–29)

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This chapter discusses Brongniart's global stratigraphy, Fourier's physics of a cooling earth, Scrope's directional geotheory, and Élie de Beaumont's sequence of revolutions. During the 1820s the rapid development of fossil-based or Smithian stratigraphy yielded an agreed framework for geohistorical interpretation. This consensual stratigraphy was effectively summarized at the end of the decade by the elder Brongniart. It suggested a history of life marked by directional and even progressive change, with successively “higher” kinds of life making their appearance in the course of time. Other geologists also agreed with Brongniart's tacit assumption that the huge pile of formations represented a correspondingly vast span of time, in relation to which the whole of human history (represented by the Alluvial deposits) had been the merest sliver at the end.

Keywords: Brongniart; stratigraphy; Fourier; cooling earth; Scrope; directional geotheory; Élie de Beaumont

Chapter.  7075 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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