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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index G > Category: Geologist

Geologist Quotes (75 quotes)

A century ago astronomers, geologists, chemists, physicists, each had an island of his own, separate and distinct from that of every other student of Nature; the whole field of research was then an archipelago of unconnected units. To-day all the provinces of study have risen together to form a continent without either a ferry or a bridge.
From chapter 'Jottings from a Note-book', in Canadian Stories (1918), 182-183.
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A geologist is a fault-finder.
Anonymous
Quoted in M. Goran, A Treasury of Science Jokes (1986),73.
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About thirty years ago there was much talk that geologists ought only to observe and not theorise; and I well remember some one saying that at this rate a man might as well go into a gravel-pit and count the pebbles and describe the colours. How odd it is that anyone should not see that all observation must be for or against some view if it is to be of any service!
Letter to Henry Fawcett (18 Sep 1861). In Charles Darwin, Francis Darwin, Albert Charles Seward, More Letters of Charles Darwin (1903), Vol. 1, 195.
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According to the conclusion of Dr. Hutton, and of many other geologists, our continents are of definite antiquity, they have been peopled we know not how, and mankind are wholly unacquainted with their origin. According to my conclusions drawn from the same source, that of facts, our continents are of such small antiquity, that the memory of the revolution which gave them birth must still be preserved among men; and thus we are led to seek in the book of Genesis the record of the history of the human race from its origin. Can any object of importance superior to this be found throughout the circle of natural science?
An Elementary Treatise on Geology (1809), 82.
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Admit for a moment, as a hypothesis, that the Creator had before his mind a projection of the whole life-history of the globe, commencing with any point which the geologist may imagine to have been a fit commencing point, and ending with some unimaginable acme in the indefinitely distant future. He determines to call this idea into actual existence, not at the supposed commencing point, but at some stage or other of its course. It is clear, then, that at the selected stage it appears, exactly as it would have appeared at that moment of its history, if all the preceding eras of its history had been real.
Omphalos: An Attempt to Untie the Geological Knot (1857), 351.
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Anthropology has reached that point of development where the careful investigation of facts shakes our firm belief in the far-reaching theories that have been built up. The complexity of each phenomenon dawns on our minds, and makes us desirous of proceeding more cautiously. Heretofore we have seen the features common to all human thought. Now we begin to see their differences. We recognize that these are no less important than their similarities, and the value of detailed studies becomes apparent. Our aim has not changed, but our method must change. We are still searching for the laws that govern the growth of human culture, of human thought; but we recognize the fact that before we seek for what is common to all culture, we must analyze each culture by careful and exact methods, as the geologist analyzes the succession and order of deposits, as the biologist examines the forms of living matter. We see that the growth of human culture manifests itself in the growth of each special culture. Thus we have come to understand that before we can build up the theory of the growth of all human culture, we must know the growth of cultures that we find here and there among the most primitive tribes of the Arctic, of the deserts of Australia, and of the impenetrable forests of South America; and the progress of the civilization of antiquity and of our own times. We must, so far as we can, reconstruct the actual history of mankind, before we can hope to discover the laws underlying that history.
The Jesup North Pacific Expedition: Memoir of the American Museum of Natural History (1898), Vol. 1, 4.
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As geologists, we learn that it is not only the present condition of the globe that has been suited to the accommodation of myriads of living creatures, but that many former states also have been equally adapted to the organization and habits of prior races of beings. The disposition of the seas, continents, and islands, and the climates have varied; so it appears that the species have been changed, and yet they have all been so modelled, on types analogous to those of existing plants and animals, as to indicate throughout a perfect harmony of design and unity of purpose. To assume that the evidence of the beginning or end of so vast a scheme lies within the reach of our philosophical inquiries, or even of our speculations, appears to us inconsistent with a just estimate of the relations which subsist between the finite powers of man and the attributes of an Infinite and Eternal Being.
Concluding remark, Principles of Geology(1833), Vol. 3, 384-5.
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As geology is essentially a historical science, the working method of the geologist resembles that of the historian. This makes the personality of the geologist of essential importance in the way he analyzes the past.
In 'The Scientific Character of Geology', The Journal of Geology (Jul 1961), 69, No. 4, 453.
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Daily it is forced home on the mind of the geologist that nothing, not even the wind that blows, is so unstable as the level of the crust of this Earth.
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Darwin was a biological evolutionist, because he was first a uniformitarian geologist. Biology is pre-eminent to-day among the natural sciences, because its younger sister, Geology, gave it the means.
Presidential Address to the Geology Section, Report of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1892), 696.
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Deprived, therefore, as regards this period, of any assistance from history, but relieved at the same time from the embarrassing interference of tradition, the archaeologist is free to follow the methods which have been so successfully pursued in geology—the rude bone and stone implements of bygone ages being to the one what the remains of extinct animals are to the other. The analogy may be pursued even further than this. Many mammalia which are extinct in Europe have representatives still living in other countries. Our fossil pachyderms, for instance, would be almost unintelligible but for the species which still inhabit some parts of Asia and Africa; the secondary marsupials are illustrated by their existing representatives in Australia and South America; and in the same manner, if we wish clearly to understand the antiquities of Europe, we must compare them with the rude implements and weapons still, or until lately, used by the savage races in other parts of the world. In fact, the Van Diemaner and South American are to the antiquary what the opossum and the sloth are to the geologist.
Pre-historic Times, as Illustrated by Ancient Remains, and the Manners and Customs of Modern Savages, (2nd ed. 1869, 1890), 429-430.
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Etna presents us not merely with an image of the power of subterranean heat, but a record also of the vast period of time during which that power has been exerted. A majestic mountain has been produced by volcanic action, yet the time of which the volcanic forms the register, however vast, is found by the geologist to be of inconsiderable amount, even in the modern annals of the earth's history. In like manner, the Falls of Niagara teach us not merely to appreciate the power of moving water, but furnish us at the same time with data for estimating the enormous lapse of ages during which that force has operated. A deep and long ravine has been excavated, and the river has required ages to accomplish the task, yet the same region affords evidence that the sum of these ages is as nothing, and as the work of yesterday, when compared to the antecedent periods, of which there are monuments in the same district.
Travels in North America (1845), Vol. 1, 28-9.
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Exact science and its practical movements are no checks on the greatest poet, but always his encouragement and support … The sailor and traveller, the anatomist, chemist, astronomer, geologist, phrenologist, spiritualist, mathematician, historian and lexicographer are not poets, but they are the lawgivers of poets and their construction underlies the structure of every perfect poem.
In Walt Whitman and William Michael Rossetti (ed.), 'Preface to the First Edition of Leaves of Grass', Poems By Walt Whitman (1868), 46.
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Far be it from me to suggest that geologists should be reckless in their drafts upon the bank of Time; but nothing whatever is gained, and very much is lost, by persistent niggardliness in this direction.
Proceedings of the Geological Society of London (1903), 59, lxxii.
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Fifty years ago Geology was in its infancy; there were but few who cultivated it as a Science ... If an unfortunate lover of nature was seen hammering in a stone quarry, he was generally supposed to be slightly demented.
Geology Considered with Reference to its Utility and Practical Effects', The Geologist, 1858, 1, 6.
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For geologists ... the word 'plate' is in somewhat the same position as 'skyscraper'. It is a dead (or almost dead) metaphor. Geologists know (or they think they know) what plates are, almost as well as the commuter knows what a skyscraper is.
Thinking About the Earth (1996), 307.
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Generally speaking, geologists seem to have been much more intent on making little worlds of their own, than in examining the crust of that which they inhabit. It would be much more desirable that facts should be placed in the foreground and theories in the distance, than that theories should be brought forward at the expense of facts. So that, in after times, when the speculations of the present day shall have passed away, from a greater accumulation of information, the facts may be readily seized and converted to account.
Sections and Views Illustrative of Geological Phenomena (1830), iv.
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Geologists are rapidly becoming convinced that the mammals spread from their central Asian point of origin largely because of great variations in climate.
The Red Man's Continent: A Chronicle of Aboriginal America (1919), 13.
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Geologists claim that although the world is running out of oil, there is still a two-hundred-year supply of brake fluid.
In Napalm and Silly Putty (2002), 105.
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Geologists have not been slow to admit that they were in error in assuming that they had an eternity of past time for the evolution of the earth's history. They have frankly acknowledged the validity of the physical arguments which go to place more or less definite limits to the antiquity of the earth. They were, on the whole, disposed to acquiesce in the allowance of 100 millions of years granted to them by Lord Kelvin, for the transaction of the whole of the long cycles of geological history. But the physicists have been insatiable and inexorable. As remorseless as Lear's daughters, they have cut down their grant of years by successive slices, until some of them have brought the number to something less than ten millions. In vain have the geologists protested that there must somewhere be a flaw in a line of argument which tends to results so entirely at variance with the strong evidence for a higher antiquity, furnished not only by the geological record, but by the existing races of plants and animals. They have insisted that this evidence is not mere theory or imagination, but is drawn from a multitude of facts which become hopelessly unintelligible unless sufficient time is admitted for the evolution of geological history. They have not been able to disapprove the arguments of the physicists, but they have contended that the physicists have simply ignored the geological arguments as of no account in the discussion.
'Twenty-five years of Geological Progress in Britain', Nature, 1895, 51, 369.
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Geologists have usually had recourse for the explanation of these changes to the supposition of sundry violent and extraordinary catastrophes, cataclysms, or general revolutions having occurred in the physical state of the earth's surface.
As the idea imparted by the term Cataclysm, Catastrophe, or Revolution, is extremely vague, and may comprehend any thing you choose to imagine, it answers for the time very well as an explanation; that is, it stops further inquiry. But it also has had the disadvantage of effectually stopping the advance of science, by involving it in obscurity and confusion.
Considerations on Volcanoes (1825), iv.
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Geologists on the whole are inconsistent drivers. When a roadcut presents itself, they tend to lurch and weave. To them, the roadcut is a portal, a fragment of a regional story, a proscenium arch that leads their imaginations into the earth and through the surrounding terrane.
Annals of the Former World
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Geology is intimately related to almost all the physical sciences, as is history to the moral. An historian should, if possible, be at once profoundly acquainted with ethics, politics, jurisprudence, the military art, theology; in a word, with all branches of knowledge, whereby any insight into human affairs, or into the moral and intellectual nature of man, can be obtained. It would be no less desirable that a geologist should be well versed in chemistry, natural philosophy, mineralogy, zoology, comparative anatomy, botany; in short, in every science relating to organic and inorganic nature. With these accomplishments the historian and geologist would rarely fail to draw correct and philosophical conclusions from the various monuments transmitted to them of former occurrences.
Principles of Geology (1830-3), Vol. 1, 2-3.
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How does it arise that, while the statements of geologists that other organic bodies existed millions of years ago are tacitly accepted, their conclusions as to man having existed many thousands of years ago should be received with hesitation by some geologists, and be altogether repudiated by a not inconsiderable number among the other educated classes of society?
'Anniversary Address of the Geological Society of London', Proceedings of the Geological Society of London (1861), 17, lxvii.
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I suggest that the best geologist is he who has seen most rocks.
The Granite Controversy: Geological Addresses Illustrating the Evolution of a Disputant (1957), 3.
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If only the Geologists would let me alone, I could do very well, but those dreadful Hammers! I hear the clink of them at the end of every cadence of the Bible verses.
Letter to Henry Acland (24 May 1851).
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In geologists’ own lives, the least effect of time is that they think in two languages, function on two different scales. … “A million years is a short time—the shortest worth messing with for most problems.”
In Basin and Range (1981), 134.
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In terms of the way a geologist operates, there is no past until after the assumption of uniformity has been made.
'The Theory of Geology', in C. C. Albritton (ed.), The Fabric of Geology (1963), 63.
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It is structure that we look for whenever we try to understand anything. All science is built upon this search; we investigate how the cell is built of reticular material, cytoplasm, chromosomes; how crystals aggregate; how atoms are fastened together; how electrons constitute a chemical bond between atoms. We like to understand, and to explain, observed facts in terms of structure. A chemist who understands why a diamond has certain properties, or why nylon or hemoglobin have other properties, because of the different ways their atoms are arranged, may ask questions that a geologist would not think of formulating, unless he had been similarly trained in this way of thinking about the world.
‘The Place of Chemistry In the Integration of the Sciences’, Main Currents in Modern Thought (1950), 7, 110.
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It must have appeared almost as improbable to the earlier geologists, that the laws of earthquakes should one day throw light on the origin of mountains, as it must to the first astronomers, that the fall of an apple should assist in explaining the motions of the moon.
Principles of Geology(1830-3), Vol. 3, 5.
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It’s not quite as exhilarating a feeling as orbiting the earth, but it’s close. In addition, it has an exotic, bizarre quality due entirely to the nature of the surface below. The earth from orbit is a delight - offering visual variety and an emotional feeling of belonging “down there.” Not so with this withered, sun-seared peach pit out of my window. There is no comfort to it; it is too stark and barren; its invitation is monotonous and meant for geologists only.
…...
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Neither you nor I nor anybody else knows what makes a mathematician tick. It is not a question of cleverness. I know many mathematicians who are far abler than I am, but they have not been so lucky. An illustration may be given by considering two miners. One may be an expert geologist, but he does not find the golden nuggets that the ignorant miner does.
In 'Reminiscences of an Octogenarian Mathematician', The American Mathematical Monthly (Nov 1971), 78, No. 9, 960-961.
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No Geologist worth anything is permanently bound to a desk or laboratory, but the charming notion that true science can only be based on unbiased observation of nature in the raw is mythology. Creative work, in geology and anywhere else, is interaction and synthesis: half-baked ideas from a bar room, rocks in the field, chains of thought from lonely walks, numbers squeezed from rocks in a laboratory, numbers from a calculator riveted to a desk, fancy equipment usually malfunctioning on expensive ships, cheap equipment in the human cranium, arguments before a road cut.
An Urchin in the Storm (1988), 98.
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No true geologist holds by the development hypothesis;—it has been resigned to sciolists and smatterers;—and there is but one other alternative. They began to be, through the miracle of creation. From the evidence furnished by these rocks we are shut down either to belief in miracle, or to something else infinitely harder of reception, and as thoroughly unsupported by testimony as it is contrary to experience. Hume is at length answered by the severe truths of the stony science.
The Foot-prints of the Creator: Or, The Asterolepis of Stromness (1850, 1859), 301.
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Of all regions of the earth none invites speculation more than that which lies beneath our feet, and in none is speculation more dangerous; yet, apart from speculation, it is little that we can say regarding the constitution of the interior of the earth. We know, with sufficient accuracy for most purposes, its size and shape: we know that its mean density is about 5½ times that of water, that the density must increase towards the centre, and that the temperature must be high, but beyond these facts little can be said to be known. Many theories of the earth have been propounded at different times: the central substance of the earth has been supposed to be fiery, fluid, solid, and gaseous in turn, till geologists have turned in despair from the subject, and become inclined to confine their attention to the outermost crust of the earth, leaving its centre as a playground for mathematicians.
'The Constitution of the Interior of the Earth, as Revealed by Earthquakes', Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society (1906), 62, 456.
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On each of two porches lie big chunks of serpentine—smooth as talc, mottled black and green. When you see rocks like that on a porch, a geologist is inside.
Assembling California
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Overdrafts on aquifers are one reason some of our geologist colleagues are convinced that water shortages will bring the human population explosion to a halt. There are substitutes for oil; there is no substitute for fresh water.
In The Population Explosion (1990), 30.
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Philosophers, if they have much imagination, are apt to let it loose as well as other people, and in such cases are sometimes led to mistake a fancy for a fact. Geologists, in particular, have very frequently amused themselves in this way, and it is not a little amusing to follow them in their fancies and their waking dreams. Geology, indeed, in this view, may be called a romantic science.
Conversations on Geology (1840), 5.
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Poets need be in no degree jealous of the geologists. The stony science, with buried creations for its domains, and half an eternity charged with its annals, possesses its realms of dim and shadowy fields, in which troops of fancies already walk like disembodied ghosts in the old fields of Elysium, and which bid fair to be quite dark and uncertain enough for all the purposes of poesy for centuries to come.
Lecture Third, collected in Popular Geology: A Series of Lectures Read Before the Philosophical Institution of Edinburgh, with Descriptive Sketches from a Geologist's Portfolio (1859), 127.
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Scientists and Drapers. Why should the botanist, geologist or other-ist give himself such airs over the draper’s assistant? Is it because he names his plants or specimens with Latin names and divides them into genera and species, whereas the draper does not formulate his classifications, or at any rate only uses his mother tongue when he does? Yet how like the sub-divisions of textile life are to those of the animal and vegetable kingdoms! A few great families—cotton, linen, hempen, woollen, silk, mohair, alpaca—into what an infinite variety of genera and species do not these great families subdivide themselves? And does it take less labour, with less intelligence, to master all these and to acquire familiarity with their various habits, habitats and prices than it does to master the details of any other great branch of science? I do not know. But when I think of Shoolbred’s on the one hand and, say, the ornithological collections of the British Museum upon the other, I feel as though it would take me less trouble to master the second than the first.
Samuel Butler, Henry Festing Jones (ed.), The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1917), 218.
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The age of the earth was thus increased from a mere score of millions [of years] to a thousand millions and more, and the geologist who had before been bankrupt in time now found himself suddenly transformed into a capitalist with more millions in the bank than he knew how to dispose of … More cautious people, like myself, too cautious, perhaps, are anxious first of all to make sure that the new [radioactive] clock is not as much too fast as Lord Kelvin’s was too slow.
1921 British Association for the Advancement of Science symposium on 'The Age of the Earth'. In Nature (1921), 108, 282.
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The authors of literary works may not have intended all the subtleties, complexities, undertones, and overtones that are attributed to them by critics and by students writing doctoral theses.” That’s what God says about geologists, I told him...
Basin and Range
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The best way to study Mars is with two hands, eyes and ears of a geologist, first at a moon orbiting Mars … and then on the surface.
In his article, '40 Years After Apollo 11 Moon Landing, It’s Time for a Mission to Mars', in Washington post (16 Jul 2009).
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The chemist works along his own brilliant line of discovery and exposition; the astronomer has his special field to explore; the geologist has a well-defined sphere to occupy. It is manifest, however, that not one of these men can tell the whole tale, and make a complete story of creation. Another man is wanted. A man who, though not necessarily going into formal science, sees the whole idea, and speaks of it in its unity. This man is the theologian. He is not a chemist, an astronomer, a geologist, a botanist——he is more: he speaks of circles, not of segments; of principles, not of facts; of causes and purposes rather than of effects and appearances. Not that the latter are excluded from his study, but that they are so wisely included in it as to be put in their proper places.
In The People's Bible: Discourses Upon Holy Scripture: Vol. 1. Genesis (1885), 120.
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The complacent manner in which geologists have produced their theories has been extremely amusing; for often with knowledge (and that frequently inaccurate) not extending beyond a given province, they have described the formation of a world with all the detail and air of eye-witnesses. That much good ensues, and that the science is greatly advanced, by the collision of various theories, cannot be doubted. Each party is anxious to support opinions by facts. Thus, new countries are explored, and old districts re-examined; facts come to light that do not suit either party; new theories spring up; and, in the end, a greater insight into the real structure of the earth's surface is obtained.
Sections and Views Illustrative of Geological Phenomena (1830), iii.
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The earliest signs of living things, announcing as they do a high complexity of organization, entirely exclude the hypothesis of a transmutation from lower to higher grades of being. The first fiat of Creation which went forth, doubtlessly ensured the perfect adaptation of animals to the surrounding media; and thus, whilst the geologist recognizes a beginning, he can see in the innumerable facts of the eye of the earliest crustacean, the same evidences of Omniscience as in the completion of the vertebrate form.
Siluria (1854), 469.
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The epoch of intense cold which preceded the present creation has been only a temporary oscillation of the earth’s temperature, more important than the century-long phases of cooling undergone by the Alpine valleys. It was associated with the disappearance of the animals of the diluvial epoch of the geologists, as still demonstrated by the Siberian mammoths; it preceded the uplifting of the Alps and the appearance of the present-day living organisms, as demonstrated by the moraines and the existence of fishes in our lakes. Consequently, there is complete separation between the present creation and the preceding ones, and if living species are sometimes almost identical to those buried inside the earth, we nevertheless cannot assume that the former are direct descendants of the latter or, in other words, that they represent identical species.
From Discours de Neuchâtel (1837), as translated by Albert V. Carozzi in Studies on Glaciers: Preceded by the Discourse of Neuchâtel (1967), lviii.
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The field of the Geologist’s inquiry is the Globe itself, … [and] it is his study to decipher the monuments of the mighty revolutions and convulsions it has suffered.
In Vindiciae Geologicae (1820), 5.
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The geologist strides across the landscape to get the big picture, but the paleontologist stays at one spot or shuffles along looking at the ground for his pet objects.
'Fossils—The How and Why of Collecting and Storing', Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington (1969), 82, 590.
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The geologist, in those tables of stone which form his records, finds no examples of dynasties once passed away again returning. There has no repetition of the dynasty of the fish, of the reptile, of the mammal. The dynasty of the future is to have glorified man for its inhabitant; but it is to be the dynasty—“the kingdom”—not of glorified man made in the image of God, but of God himself in the form man.
The Testimony of the Rocks: or, Geology in Its Bearings on the Two Theologies, Natural and Revealed (1857), 178.
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The geologist, who is blest with an assured conviction of the immensity of geological time, moves with an ease and freedom from cause to effect wholly denied to those wanting in this conviction.
In 'The Relations of Geology', Scottish Geographical Magazine (Aug 1902), 19, No. 8, 398.
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The intensity and quantity of polemical literature on scientific problems frequently varies inversely as the number of direct observations on which the discussions are based: the number and variety of theories concerning a subject thus often form a coefficient of our ignorance. Beyond the superficial observations, direct and indirect, made by geologists, not extending below about one two-hundredth of the Earth's radius, we have to trust to the deductions of mathematicians for our ideas regarding the interior of the Earth; and they have provided us successively with every permutation and combination possible of the three physical states of matter—solid, liquid, and gaseous.
'Address delivered by the President of Section [Geology] at Sydney (Friday, Aug 21), Report of the Eighty-Fourth Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science: Australia 1914, 1915, 345.
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The interior parts of the earth and its internal depths are a region totally impervious to the eye of mortal man, and can least of all be approached by those ordinary paths of hypothesis adopted by naturalists and geologists. The region designed for the existence of man, and of every other creature endowed with organic life, as well as the sphere opened to the perception of man's senses, is confined to a limited space between the upper and lower parts of the earth, exceedingly small in proportion to the diameter, or even semi-diameter of the earth, and forming only the exterior surface, or outer skin, of the great body of the earth.
In Friedrich von Schlegel and James Burton Robertson (trans.), The Philosophy of History (1835), 20.
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The personal adventures of a geologist would form an amusing narrative. He is trudging along, dusty and weather­beaten, with his wallet at his back, and his hammer on his shoulder, and he is taken for a stone-mason travelling in search of work. In mining-countries, he is supposed to be in quest of mines, and receives many tempting offers of shares in the ‘Wheel Dream’, or the ‘Golden Venture’;—he has been watched as a smuggler; it is well if he has not been committed as a vagrant, or apprehended as a spy, for he has been refused admittance to an inn, or has been ushered into the room appropriated to ostlers and postilions. When his fame has spread among the more enlightened part of the community of a district which he has been exploring, and inquiries are made of the peasantry as to the habits and pursuits of the great philosopher who has been among them, and with whom they have become familiar, it is found that the importance attached by him to shells and stones, and such like trumpery, is looked upon as a species of derangement, but they speak with delight of his affability, sprightliness, and good-humour. They respect the strength of his arm, and the weight of his hammer, as they point to marks which he inflicted on the rocks, and they recount with wonder his pedestrian performances, and the voracious appetite with which, at the close of a long day’s work he would devour the coarsest food that was set before him.
In Practical Geology and Mineralogy: With Instructions for the Qualitative Analysis of Minerals (1841), 31-2.
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The science of the geologist seems destined to exert a marked influence on that of the natural theologian... Not only—to borrow from Paley's illustration—does it enable him to argue on the old grounds, from the contrivance exhibited in the watch found on the moor, that the watch could not have lain upon the moor for ever; but it establishes further, on different and more direct evidence, that there was a time when absolutely the watch was not there; nay, further, so to speak, that there was a previous time in which no watches existed at all, but only water-clocks; yet further, that there was at time in which there we not even water-clocks, but only sun-dials; and further, an earlier time still in which sun-dials were not, nor an measurers of time of any kind.
Lecture to the Edinburgh Philosophical Institution, 'Geology in its Bearings on the Two Theologies, Part 1', collected in The Testimony of the Rocks: or, Geology in Its Bearings on the Two Theologies, Natural and Revealed (1857), 211.
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The step between practical and theoretic science, is the step between the miner and the geologist, the apocathecary and the chemist.
Modern Painters (1852), Part 3, 8.
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The student of palaetiological sciences is a scientist and a historian. The former tries to be as uniformitarian as possible, the latter has to recognize the contingency of events which will ever be a 'skandalon' to the scientist. Verily, the geologist 'lives in a divided world'.
Natural Law and Divine Miracle: The Principle of Uniformity in Geology, Biology and Theology (1963), 151.
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The Wegener hypothesis has been so stimulating and has such fundamental implications in geology as to merit respectful and sympathetic interest from every geologist. Some striking arguments in his favor have been advanced, and it would be foolhardy indeed to reject any concept that offers a possible key to the solution of profound problems in the Earth's history.
Published while geologists remained sceptical of Alfred Wegener's idea of Continental Drift, Though unconvinced, he published these thoughts suggesting that critics should be at least be open-minded. His patience was proven justified when two decades later, the theory of plate tectonics provided a mechanism for the motion of the continents.
Some Thoughts on the Evidence for Continental Drift (1944).
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The world is the geologist’s great puzzle-box; he stands before it like the child to whom the separate pieces of his puzzle remain a mystery till he detects their relation and sees where they fit, and then his fragments grow at once into a connected picture beneath his hand.
Geological Sketches (1866), II.
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The ‘Doctrine of Uniformity’ in Geology, as held by many of the most eminent of British Geologists, assumes that the earth’s surface and upper crust have been nearly as they are at present in temperature, and other physical qualities, during millions of millions of years. But the heat which we know, by observation, to be now conducted out of the earth yearly is so great, that if this action has been going on with any approach to uniformity for 20,000 million years, the amount of heat lost out of the earth would have been about as much as would heat, by 100 Cent., a quantity of ordinary surface rock of 100 times the earth’s bulk. This would be more than enough to melt a mass of surface rock equal in bulk to the whole earth. No hypothesis as to chemical action, internal fluidity, effects of pressure at great depth, or possible character of substances in the interior of the earth, possessing the smallest vestige of probability, can justify the supposition that the earth’s upper crust has remained nearly as it is, while from the whole, or from any part, of the earth, so great a quantity of heat has been lost.
In 'The “Doctrine of Uniformity” in Geology Briefly Refuted' (1866), Popular Lectures and Addresses (1891), Vol. 2, 6-7.
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This is the geologist—this works with the scalpel—and this is a mathematician.
, Gentlemen! to you the first honors always:
Your facts are useful and real—and yet they are not my dwelling;
(I but enter by them to an area of my dwelling.)
In Leaves of Grass (1867), 49.
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Though, probably, no competent geologist would contend that the European classification of strata is applicable to all other parts of the globe, yet most, if not all geologists, write as though it were so.
'Illogical Geology', The Universal Review (1859), 2, 54.
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We may be sure, that if Lyell were now living he would frankly recognize new facts, as soon as they were established, and would not shrink from any modification of his theory which these might demand. Great as were his services to geology, this, perhaps, is even greater—for the lesson applies to all sciences and to all seekers alter knowledge—that his career, from first to lost, was the manifestation of a judicial mind, of a noble spirit, raised far above all party passions and petty considerations, of an intellect great in itself, but greater still in its grand humility; that he was a man to whom truth was as the “pearl of price,” worthy of the devotion and, if need be, the sacrifice of a life.
Conclusion in Charles Lyell and Modern Geology (1895), 213.
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We must preach up traveling … as the first, second, and third requisites for a modern geologist, in the present adolescent stage of the science.
Letter (12 Jan 1829) to Roderick Murchison, collected in Katherine Murray Lyell (ed.), Life, Letters and Journals of Sir Charles Lyell, Bart. (1881), Vol. 1, 233-234.
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We’re very safety conscious, aren’t we? [In 1989,] I did a programme on fossils, Lost Worlds, Vanished Lives, and got a letter from a geologist saying, “You should have been wearing protective goggles when you were hitting that rock. Fragments could have flown into your eye and blinded you. What a bad example you are.” I thought, “Oh, for goodness sake...”
As reported by Adam Lusher in 'Sir David Attenborough', Daily Mail (28 Feb 2014).
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What we do see depends mainly on what we look for. ... In the same field the farmer will notice the crop, the geologists the fossils, botanists the flowers, artists the colouring, sportmen the cover for the game. Though we may all look at the same things, it does not all follow that we should see them.
The Beauties of Nature (1893, 2009), 12.
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When chemists have brought their knowledge out of their special laboratories into the laboratory of the world, where chemical combinations are and have been through all time going on in such vast proportions,—when physicists study the laws of moisture, of clouds and storms, in past periods as well as in the present,—when, in short, geologists and zoologists are chemists and physicists, and vice versa,—then we shall learn more of the changes the world has undergone than is possible now that they are separately studied.
Geological Sketches (1866), 73.
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With an interest almost amounting to anxiety, geologists will watch the development of researches which may result in timing the strata and the phases of evolutionary advance; and may even-going still further back—give us reason to see in the discrepancy between denudative and radioactive methods, glimpses of past aeons, beyond that day of regeneration which at once ushered in our era of life, and, for all that went before, was 'a sleep and a forgetting'.
John Joly
Radioactivity and Geology (1909), 250-1.
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Words are to the Anthropologist what rolled pebbles are to the Geologist—Battered relics of past ages often containing within them indelible records capable of intelligible interpretion—and when we see what amount of change 2000 years has been able to produce in the languages of Greece & Italy or 1000 in those of Germany, France & Spain we naturally begin to ask how long a period must have lapsed since the Chinese, the Hebrew, the Delaware & the Malesass had a point in common with the German & Italian & each other.—Time! Time! Time!—we must not impugn the Scripture Chronology, but we must interpret it in accordance with whatever shall appear on fair enquiry to be the truth for there cannot be two truths. And really there is scope enough: for the lives of the Patriarchs may as reasonably be extended to 5000 or 50000 years apiece as the days of Creation to as many thousand millions of years.
Letter to Charles Lyell, 20 Feb 1836, In Walter F. Cannon, 'The Impact of Uniformitarianism', Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 1961, 105, 308.
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You can hardly convince a man of error in a life-time, but must content yourself with the reflection that the progress of science is slow. If he is not convinced, his grand-children may be. The geologists tell us that it took one hundred years to prove that fossils are organic, and one hundred and fifty more, to prove that they are not to be referred to the Noachian deluge.
In A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1862), 68.
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[In geology,] As in history, the material in hand remains silent if no questions are asked. The nature of these questions depends on the “school” to which the geologist belongs and on the objectivity of his investigations. Hans Cloos called this way of interrogation “the dialogue with the earth,” “das Gesprach mit der Erde.”
In 'The Scientific Character of Geology', The Journal of Geology (Jul 1961), 69, No. 4, 456.
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[L]et us not overlook the further great fact, that not only does science underlie sculpture, painting, music, poetry, but that science is itself poetic. The current opinion that science and poetry are opposed is a delusion. ... On the contrary science opens up realms of poetry where to the unscientific all is a blank. Those engaged in scientific researches constantly show us that they realize not less vividly, but more vividly, than others, the poetry of their subjects. Whoever will dip into Hugh Miller's works on geology, or read Mr. Lewes's “Seaside Studies,” will perceive that science excites poetry rather than extinguishes it. And whoever will contemplate the life of Goethe will see that the poet and the man of science can co-exist in equal activity. Is it not, indeed, an absurd and almost a sacrilegious belief that the more a man studies Nature the less he reveres it? Think you that a drop of water, which to the vulgar eye is but a drop of water, loses anything in the eye of the physicist who knows that its elements are held together by a force which, if suddenly liberated, would produce a flash of lightning? Think you that what is carelessly looked upon by the uninitiated as a mere snow-flake, does not suggest higher associations to one who has seen through a microscope the wondrously varied and elegant forms of snow-crystals? Think you that the rounded rock marked with parallel scratches calls up as much poetry in an ignorant mind as in the mind of a geologist, who knows that over this rock a glacier slid a million years ago? The truth is, that those who have never entered upon scientific pursuits know not a tithe of the poetry by which they are surrounded. Whoever has not in youth collected plants and insects, knows not half the halo of interest which lanes and hedge-rows can assume. Whoever has not sought for fossils, has little idea of the poetical associations that surround the places where imbedded treasures were found. Whoever at the seaside has not had a microscope and aquarium, has yet to learn what the highest pleasures of the seaside are. Sad, indeed, is it to see how men occupy themselves with trivialities, and are indifferent to the grandest phenomena—care not to understand the architecture of the Heavens, but are deeply interested in some contemptible controversy about the intrigues of Mary Queen of Scots!—are learnedly critical over a Greek ode, and pass by without a glance that grand epic written by the finger of God upon the strata of the Earth!
Education: Intellectual, Moral, and Physical (1889), 82-83.
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[Microscopic] evidence cannot be presented ad populum. What is seen with the microscope depends not only upon the instrument and the rock-section, but also upon the brain behind the eye of the observer. Each of us looks at a section with the accumulated experience of his past study. Hence the veteran cannot make the novice see with his eyes; so that what carries conviction to the one may make no appeal to the other. This fact does not always seem to be sufficiently recognized by geologists at large.
'The Anniversary Address of the President', Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London, 1885, 41, 59.
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[The] subjective [historical] element in geologic studies accounts for two characteristic types that can be distinguished among geologists: one considering geology as a creative art, the other regarding geology as an exact science.
In 'The Scientific Character of Geology', The Journal of Geology (Jul 1961), 69, No. 4, 453.
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… just as the astronomer, the physicist, the geologist, or other student of objective science looks about in the world of sense, so, not metaphorically speaking but literally, the mind of the mathematician goes forth in the universe of logic in quest of the things that are there; exploring the heights and depths for facts—ideas, classes, relationships, implications, and the rest; observing the minute and elusive with the powerful microscope of his Infinitesimal Analysis; observing the elusive and vast with the limitless telescope of his Calculus of the Infinite; making guesses regarding the order and internal harmony of the data observed and collocated; testing the hypotheses, not merely by the complete induction peculiar to mathematics, but, like his colleagues of the outer world, resorting also to experimental tests and incomplete induction; frequently finding it necessary, in view of unforeseen disclosures, to abandon one hopeful hypothesis or to transform it by retrenchment or by enlargement:—thus, in his own domain, matching, point for point, the processes, methods and experience familiar to the devotee of natural science.
In Lectures on Science, Philosophy and Art (1908), 26
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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- 90 -
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- 80 -
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- 70 -
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- 60 -
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- 50 -
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- 40 -
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- 30 -
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- 20 -
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- 10 -
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