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The author of the book: Alan Cutler
Edition: Dutton Adult
Date of issue: April 28th 2003
ISBN: 0525947086
ISBN 13: 9780525947080
Language: English
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 1.29 MB
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Reader ratings: 5.1

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I'm not really one for books on science because usually they are too abstruse and complicated for me. This was a happy exception. Written in an easily accessible style, this was the biography, discussion of the scientific theories and importance of the self-effacing 17th century Dane, Nicolaus Steno, who can be called the 'father' of geology.

In a student journal he wrote of his thought that: "Snails, shells, oysters, fish, etc. [have been] found petrified on places far remote from the sea. Either they have remained there after an ancient flood or because the bed of the seas has slowly been changed." He also wrote: Sedimentary rocks were "soils from which shells ... were dug." He felt these were indeed "sediments from a turbid sea." From the dissection of 2800 shark's teeth, he was led to the possibility that the so-called glossopetrae [tongue stones] were petrified shark's teeth. Through much research, he theorized about the stratification of rocks, existence of fossils [the seashells on the mountaintops], the glimmerings of what we call crystallography, and other conjectures. He posited the age of the earth as billions of years and changes in the earth's structure. Ancient seas became mountains in later years, and the seashells and creatures once in the sea, then land, ended up as fossils in the mountains. These theories were noted in his "De Solidi" and were not accepted at that time. They met with much opposition. At one point, in the 18th century, the age of the earth was pinpointed as ancient, later on, geological eras were given names. And from then, his theories have been generally accepted and built upon. A small accomplishment in his work as an anatomist were the discoveries of the salivary and lachrymal glands.

After spending so much time in Italy, he became a devout Catholic, later priest and titular bishop in Germany. In recent years, he has been beatified. This book was a fascinating look at a man and his scientific work; the name Steno was new to me and I can hardly believe his theories were not always the explanation for what happens geologically. Today, they seem so logical. I can't imagine people's accepting the fanciful theories floating around before and during his time.


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