Chapter

Taking Stock for the Future (1840–45)

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/9780226731308.003.0037
Taking Stock for the Future (1840–45)

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The narrative in this book has been brought to an end in the mid-1840s, with the arguments over glacial extension and the putative Ice Age still in full swing, as they would continue to be for many years to come. But the glacial debate was traced far enough to illustrate its decisive role in the broader story of the transformation of the earth sciences by the penetration of geohistorical ways of practicing them. The most important point about the controversy over the Ice Age was that any such episode in the geologically recent past was totally unexpected by leading geologists of all stripes. Equally unexpected was the complex story of the history of life that had been pieced together during the quarter-century covered by the present volume. Based initially on Smithian stratigraphy, vastly enlarged and deepened by the geohistorical perspective inspired by Cuvier, and brought to maturity by geologists such as Smith's nephew Phillips, this research disclosed a history of life that, while certainly directional and even “progressive,” could not have been predicted in any detail from such grand theoretical schemes as Lamarck's transformism.

Keywords: Ice Age; geohistory; earth science; geology; Smithian stratigraphy; Cuvier; Phillips

Chapter.  9132 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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