Encyclopedia > Geology

  Article Content


Geology (from greek γη (ge) - the earth and λογος (logos) - science) is the science and study of the earth, its history, and the processes that shape it. The term geology is first mentioned by Richard de Bury[?] in 1473. He used it to distinguish between earthly (mundane?) and theological jurisprudence.

Geology meaning science of the earth is first used by Jean-André de Luc in the year 1778 and introduced by Bénédict de Saussure[?] in the year 1779 as a fixed term.

Geology is also sometimes used about similar studies of other bodies of the solar system. However, specialised terms such as selenology (studies of the Moon), areology (of Mars), etc., are also in use.


Georg Agricola (1494-1555) wrote the first systematic treatise about mining and about smelting works: De re metallica libri XII with an appendix Buch von den Lebewesen unter Tage (book of the creatures beneath the earth). He covered subjects like wind energy, hydrodynamic power, melting cookers, transport of ores, extraction of soda, sulfur and alum, and administrative issues. The book has been published in 1556.

James Hutton is often viewed as the first modern geologist. In 1785 he presented a paper entitled Theory of the Earth to the Royal Society of Edinburgh[?]. In his paper, he explained his theory that the Earth must be much older than had previously been supposed, in order to allow enough time for mountains to be eroded, and for the sediment to form new rocks at the bottom of the sea, which were then raised up to dry land.

Followers of Hutton were known as plutonists because they believed that some rocks were formed by vulcanism which is the deposition of lava from volcanoes, as opposed to the neptunists, who believed that all rocks had settled out of a large ocean whose level gradually dropped over time.

William Smith (1769-1839) drew some of the first geological maps and began the process of ordering rock strata (layers) by examining the fossils contained in them.

Sir Charles Lyell first published his famous book, Principles of Geology, in 1830 and continued to publish new revisions until he died in 1875. He successfully promoted the doctrine of uniformitarianism. This theory states that slow geological processes occurred throughout the earth's history, and are still occurring today. In contrast, catastrophism is the theory that Earth's features formed in single, catastrophic events and remained unchanged thereafter. (Hutton believed in uniformitarianism, but the idea was not widely accepted at the time.)

The theory of continental drift was proposed by Alfred Wegener in 1912 and by Arthur Holmes, but wasn't broadly accepted until the 1960s when the theory of plate tectonics was developed.

See also: Timeline of geology


There are many different fields within the discipline of Geology, and it would be hard to list all of them. Some include, however: geochemistry, hydrogeology[?] (or geohydrology[?]), petroleum geology, economic geology[?], soil science, climatology, biogeology[?], geodetics[?] and geophysics.

Subdisciplines within geology proper include structural geology, sedimentology and stratigraphy, mineralogy (study of minerals), petrology[?] (study of rocks), geomorphology (study of landforms), seismology (also a field in geophysics) and volcanology (the study of volcanic activity).

There is also engineering geology[?], which supports civil engineering, especially geotechnical engineering, and geological engineering[?]. The difference between geological engineering and engineering geology is real: geological engineers are licensed as engineers, engineering geologists are licensed as geologists.

See also geologists, the geologic timescale, minerals

External link

James Hutton's Theory of the Earth: http://www.mala.bc.ca/~johnstoi/essays/Hutton.htm

All Wikipedia text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

  Search Encyclopedia

Search over one million articles, find something about almost anything!
  Featured Article
Thomas a Kempis

... was made in 1434 by J. de Bellorivo and is preserved in Cologne. The editions in German began at Augsburg in 1486. The first English translation (1502) was by William ...

This page was created in 49.3 ms