Academic journal article The Science Teacher

"What Is the Matter with the Earth?"

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

"What Is the Matter with the Earth?"

Article excerpt

The year was 1907. In the preceding 12 months, four devastating earthquakes had occurred around the world, as close to home as California and as far away as Chile, Jamaica, and the South Pacific. People wondered why. Was something going wrong with the planet? Popular American newspapers tried to explain scientific schools of thought in the emerging geologic sciences of seismology (the study of earthquakes) and volcanology (the study of volcanoes).

On January 27, the Washington Times (Washington, D.C.) published "What Is the Matter With the Earth?" (right), an illustrated article describing the latest investigations and theories about what caused the earthquakes. Seismographs--instruments that measure earthquakes--had been positioned around the world by the 1880s, providing crucial data for scientific research. Based on this data and other observations, some scientists thought the Earth's center was cooling, causing the crust to shrink; some believed changing pressure between parts of the Earth's crust were to blame; and--decades before the theory of plate tectonics formally developed--the article speculated: "There seem to be earthquake belts or areas on the globe which are frequently visited by these freaks of nature." The article enumerated the recent disasters and gave a brief history of significant earthquakes and their ruinous effects.

Historical newspapers provide great opportunities for student exploration and learning. As primary sources, they provide insights into contemporary culture, reflecting what the general public knew about the world and when, as well as various points of view. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.