Study of the Earth

Study of the Earth

Study of the Earth

Study of the Earth


What stuff 'tis made of, whereof it is born, I am to learn. . . . -- SHAKESPEARE, The Merchant of Venice, Act I, sc. I


". . . the nature and system of the world have been discovered but lately. . . ." -- Lucretius, De Rerum Natura, V (100-55 B.C.)

IT IS DIFFICULT TO PROVIDE A BRIEF BUT MEANINGful introduction to a topic as broad as the study of the earth. This introduction is meant to provide a framework to the study of geological science: specifically its broader outlines, its importance, and its relationship to other fields of knowledge. The significance of the selections will be immediately apparent.

Man has always contemplated his world and has sought explanations of how the earth began and how its various features were formed. Although many of his earlier explanations now seem fanciful, they served the needs of the time and seemed to explain satisfactorily the data at hand. The early Greeks viewed nature as a subject worthy of philosophical speculation; many of their views still have an essentially modern outlook. However, it is only since the eighteenth century that the study of the earth has developed systematically through the collection of verifiable data and the building of scientific theories. Our most recent theories, which attempt to explain not only past findings but also current data, remain "true" until even more modern theories are developed to replace them.

Past and present

Although we have greatly enlarged our understanding of the earth, we neither pretend nor expect to know all the answers. Indeed, much of the increased understanding has only led to new questions, and it may well be that learning has no end. We find that the earth still . . .

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