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Founders of Historical Geology. Can be traced back to classical Greece. Nicolaus Steno (Neils Stensen) 1638-1687 Originally a Danish physician An expert in anatomy (Public Dissections) Developed the fundamental principles of historical geology Physician to the de Medici

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Founders of Historical Geology

Can be traced back to classical Greece

Nicolaus Steno (Neils Stensen) 1638-1687

Originally a Danish physician

An expert in anatomy

(Public Dissections)

Developed the fundamental

principles of historical


Physician to the de Medici

family in Florence


Founders of Historical Geology

Nicolaus Steno (Neils Stensen) 1638-1687

In 1669, Steno wrote

De solido intra solidum naturaliter

contento dissertationis prodromus

Prodromus to a dissertation on Solids

Naturally Enclosed in Solids

only 78 pages long


Founders of Historical Geology

Superposition - The scientific law stating that in any unaltered sequence of rock strata, each stratum is younger than the one beneath it and older than the one above it, so that the youngest stratum will be at the top of the sequence and the oldest at the bottom.


Founders of Historical Geology

With tilted beds, we need

to consider other


structures, like

ripple marks,


graded bedding,

geopetal structures

or cross-bedding

to help determine

up direction.

Can also use vesicles in

lava flows.

Superposition, con’t.


Founders of Historical Geology

Principle of Original Horizontality - The scientific law stating

that sediments settling out of a fluid (air and water) are

deposited horizontally or nearly horizontally in layers that lie

parallel or nearly parallel to the Earth’s surface.


Founders of Historical Geology

Principle of Lateral Continuity - The scientific law stating that

as originally deposited, strata extend in all directions until they

terminate by thinning at the margins of the basin, end

abruptly against some former barrier to deposition, or grade

laterally into a different kind of sediment.


Founders of Historical Geology

John Strachey 1671-1743

Used superposition and original lateral continuity

Determined the stratigraphic succession of coals in England

Recognized what would later be termed unconformities

Performed local-scale observations.


Founders of Historical Geology

Giovanni Arduino 1714-1795

Had a broader global view of sedimentary layers

Developed the first classification of rocks and relative ages

Primary Mountains crystalline rocks

oldest rocks on Earth

later became igneous/metamorph.

Secondary Mountains layered

fossiliferous rocks

later sedimentary


Tertiary unconsolidated sediments

lava flows


Founders of Historical Geology

Johann Lehmann 1719-1767

Georg Füchsel 1722-1776

Came up with classification similar to that of Arduino

Developed stratigraphic successions of rocks in Thuringia,

and the Hartz and Ertz Mountains.

Began to understand the events that lead

to mountain building



Founders of Historical Geology

Peter Simon Pallas 1741-1811

Improved geologic history of the mountains of Europe

Developed the general geologic history of the Urals

Observed changes in rock assemblages going from margins to

the core of mountains.

Reise durch

verschiedene Provinzen

des Russischen Reiches


Journey Through

Several Provinces

of the Russian Empire


Founders of Historical Geology

Abraham Gottlieb Werner 1749-1817

Most influential geologist of the late 18th century

Studied at the Freiburg Mining Academy

Taught mineralogy at Freiburg.

Developed the “Neptunian”

classification of rocks

All rocks of the crust were deposited

or precipitated from sea water

A universal ocean once covered the


Followers called “Neptunists”


Founders of Historical Geology

Abraham Gottlieb Werner 1749-1817

Primitive Rocks Deposited first

Came from hot, steamy fluid with many

dissolved minerals

Coarse grained igneous and metamorphic

Transition Rocks Ocean basins formed, waters cooled

Fossiliferous, stratified rocks

Deformed rocks

Ocean resembled modern oceans


Founders of Historical Geology

Flötzgebirge Flat lying sedimentary rocks

Contained lava flows

Alluvium All unconsolidated material


Founders of Historical Geology

Where did all the water go?


Founders of Historical Geology

James Hutton 1726-1797

Father of Modern Geology

Edinburgh physician & geologist?

Opponent to Neptunism

Believed fire was the answer.

Recognized change on the Earth’s


(Surficial processes were active)

Developed cyclic view of Earth

“No vestige of a beginning, no

prospect of an end”.


Founders of Historical Geology

Laid foundation for uniformitarianism

“The past history of our globe must be explained by what

can be seen to be happening now”.

By observing geologic processes in operation around him,

Hutton could infer the origin of features observed in


“Present is the key to the past”.

Archibald Geike 1835-1924


Founders of Historical Geology

Geologic past has been different than today:



Meteorite Impacts

Elevation of Continents


Rate of change and intensity varied, but

processes are the same.


Founders of Historical Geology


Natural laws governing both past and present

processes on Earth have been the same.

Hutton observed that for all the processes to be active,

immense time was needed.

Exploration of Siccar Point

recognized the vastness of time

recognized unconformable relationships in the rocks

unable to determine the age relationships.