Imagining geohistory (1831–40)

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:
Imagining geohistory (1831–40)

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This chapter discusses geologists' development of a deeply geohistorical outlook in the 1830s. It considers the “great Devonian controversy,” which forced geologists in Britain and elsewhere to examine the foundations of their use of fossils in stratigraphy. The chapter describes Swiss geologist Amanz Gressly's concept of “facies.” In the case of the Jurassic formations in the Jura hills on the Franco-Swiss border, Gressly interpreted the contrasting facies, each with its own distinctive rock types and fossils, as the result of simultaneous deposition under contrasting physical and environmental conditions. This signaled a new level of geohistorical insight in the interpretation of stratigraphy. In effect, Gressly plotted in space and time what naturalists might have seen, had they been able to explore the Jurassic seas in a suitable underwater time-machine.

Keywords: geohistory; life; earth; Amanz Gressly; facies; stratigraphy

Chapter.  7710 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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