Assigned Reading: Landmarks in the Discovery of Geological Time

Nicholas Copernicus (1473-1543): Establishes the principle of heliocentric planetary motion.

James Ussher, Bishop of Armagh (1581-1656) Calculates biblical Creation of Earth to have been in 4004 BC.

Nicholas Steno (aka Niels Stensen 1638-1686): Publishes Prodromus (1668), his treatise on geology. Sets forth principles of original horizontality, superposition, and lateral continuity.

Isaac Newton (1647-1797): Proposes theory of universal gravitation, which provides foundation for modern understanding of planetary motion.

James Hutton (1726-1797): Establishes the notion of "uniformitarianism," which holds that the processes that operate in the Earth today are the same as those which have operated in the past. Publishes Theory of the Earth (published as a paper) and Theory of the Earth with Proofs and Illustrations (1795, a two-volume book).

Georges Cuvier (1769-1832): Founded sciences of comparative anatomy and paleontology; demonstrated the fact of organismal extinction.

William Smith (1769-1839) British civil engineer; used fossils for correlation of geological strata and demonstrated the principle of faunal succession; developed the first stratigraphic classification based on time relations of strata; produced the first geological map (1815).

Charles Lyell (1797-1875): Intellectual successor to James Hutton. Published Principles of Geology (three-volume set, 1830-1833); developing the notion of uniformitarianism.

Charles Darwin (1809-1882): Establishes the theory of evolution by natural selection; publishes The Origin of Species (1859).

Antoine Becquerel (1852-1908): Discovered natural radioactivity (1896).

Pierre (1859-1906) and Marie (1867-1934) Curie: Discovered that radium continuously releases newly generated heat.

Arthur Holmes: First used radioactive decay as a means of dating rocks (1911).

Download an rtf file of this page.