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Worlds Before AdamThe Reconstruction of Geohistory in the Age of Reform$
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Martin J. S. Rudwick

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780226731285

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226731308.001.0001

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The Engine of Geohistory (1824–29)

The Engine of Geohistory (1824–29)

(p.121) Chapter 9 The Engine of Geohistory (1824–29)
Worlds Before Adam
University of Chicago Press

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

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