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Central Events in the Earth Sciences


Source: Human Accomplishment by Charles Murray, pp 176-178

"Earth Sciences" refer to, collectively, geology, oceanography, and aeronomy.

YearCountryEvent
-520GreecePythagoras of Samos argues that the earth is spherical.
-300GreecePytheas of Massilia describes the ocean tides and their relationship to the moon.
-240AlexandriaEratosthenes calculates values for the circumference and diameter of the earth accurate to within about 15 percent of the true values.
1546GermanyAgricola's De Natura Fossilium classifies minerals, founding mineralogy. The term fossil is introduced for anything dug from the ground.
1544Germany
England
Georg Hartman discovers magnetic "dip," or inclination, rediscovered in 1576 by Robert Norman.
1568BelgiumMercator invents the Mercator projection for maps.
1668EnglandRobert Hooke proposes that fossils can be used as a source of information about the earth's history.
1669DenmarkNicolaus Steno diagrams six levels of stratification, arguing that shifts in the earth's strata caused the formation of mountains, and identifies fossils as ancient creatures.
1671FranceJean Picard's Mesure de la Terre gives an estimate of the size of the earth accurate to within about 90 feet.
1680EnglandRobert Boyle develops the silver nitrate test for sea water, founding chemical oceanography.
1725ItalyLuigi Marsigli's Historie Physique de la Mer is the first treatise on oceanography, discussing topography, circulation, ocean plants and animals, along with many measurements.
1746FranceJean-Étienne Guettard prepares the first true geological maps, showing rocks and minerals arranged in bands.
1752FranceJean-Étienne Guettard identifies heat as the causative factor of change in the earth's landforms.
1756GermanyJohann Lehmann's Versuch einer Geschichte von Flötz-Gebürgen describes earth's crust as a structured sequence of strata.
1760EnglandJohn Michell writes "Essay on the Causes and Phenomena of Earthquakes," beginning the systematic study of seismology.
1770USABenjamin Franklin prepares the first scientific chart of the Gulf Stream.
1779SwitzerlandHorace Saussure writes Voyage dans les Alpes, describing his geological, meterological, and botanical studies, and coining the term geology.
1785ScotlandJames Hutton's "Concerning the System of the Earth" is the first statement of the uniformitarian view of earth's development.
1798EnglandJames Hall demonstrates that lavas can be fused into glass, explaining otherwise puzzling geologic formations and founding experimental geology.
1799EnglandWilliam Smith discovers ways in which fossils can be used to identify correspondences between strata in different regions.
1811FranceGeorges Cuvier and Alexandre Brongniart's maps of formations in the Paris region establish the basic principles of paleontological stratigraphy.
1812FranceGeorges Cuvier's Recherches sur les Ossemens Fossiles systematically analyzes and classifies extinct forms of life, founding vertebrate paleontology, and introduces catastrophism as an explanation for extinctions.
1815EnglandWilliam Smith prepares the first geologic map showing relationships on a large scale, including England, Wales, and part of Scotland.
1830EnglandCharles Lyell's Principles of Geology argues that geological formations are created over millions of years, creating a new time frame for other disciplines as well and founding modern geology.
1835FranceGaspard de Coriolis discovers the Coriolis effect, the deflection of a moving body caused by the earth's rotation.
1837USALouis Agassiz's "Discourse at Neuchâtel" is the first presentation of the Ice Age theory.
1838ScotlandRoderick Murchinson describes the Silurian System, establishing the sequence of early Paleozoic rocks.
1842EnglandRichard Owen coins the word dinosaur and describes two new genera.
1847USAMatthew Maury publishes the first extensive oceanographic and weather charts.
1855USAMatthew Maury writes Physical Geography of the Sea, the first textbook of oceanography.
1866FranceGabriel Daubrée presents his theory that the earth has a nickel-iron core.
1880EnglandJohn Milne invents the first precise seismograph, founding modern seismology.
1883USAEdward Cope's The Vertebrata of the Tertiary Formations of the West reports the discovery of the first complete remains of dinosaurs of the Cretaceous.
1902England
USA
Oliver Heaviside and Arthur Kennelly independently predict the existence of a layer in the atmosphere that permits long-distance radio transmission, confirmed in 1924 by Edward Appleton.
1902FranceLéon Teisserenc de Bort describes the atmosphere as divided into the troposphere and stratosphere.
1909CroatiaAndrija Mohorovicic discovers the Mohorovicic discontinuity in the earth's crust that separates the outeromst crust from a more rigid layer.
1913FranceCharles Fabry discovers ozone in the upper atmosphere and demonstrates that it filters out solar ultraviolet radiation.
1914USABeno Gutenberg discovers the Gutenberg Discontinuity in the earth's structure, separating a liquid core from a solid mantle.
1915GermanyAlfred Wegener's Die Entstehung der Kontinente und Ozeane presents evidence for a primordial continent, Pangaea, and subsequent continental drift.
1920NorwayJakob and Vilhelm Bjerknes describe air masses and fronts, and their use in weather prediction.
1924EnglandEdward Appleton discovers the ionosphere.
1924South AfricaRaymond Dart discovers Australopithecus and categorizes it as a hominid, neither human nor ape.
1930USACharles Beebe's first bathysphere reaches a depth of 417 meters, allowing the first direct access to the ocean depths.
1931SwitzerlandAuguste Piccard and Paul Kipfer use a high altitude balloon to reach the stratosphere.
1935USACharles Richter invents the Richter scale for measuring the magnitude of earthquakes.