Books  Physical Sciences  Earth & Planetary Sciences  Earth & Planetary Sciences: General 

Drifting Continents and Shifting Theories: The Modern Revolution in Geology and Scientific Change

By: HE LeGrand

313 pages, Illus, maps

Cambridge University Press

Paperback | Dec 1988 | #82938 | ISBN: 0521311055
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NHBS Price: £50.99 $62/€57 approx

About this book

This innovative book uses the story of how a modern science achieved its present shape and focus to examine the nature of scientific change and its philosophical and social analysis. The 'modern revolution in geology' of the 1960s and 1970s saw the triumph of the global theory of plate tectonics; a decisive turning point in fifty years' controversy and competition, first sparked in 1912 by Wegener's proposal of continental drift. Here, Professor Le Grand interweaves a history of this episode of scientific change with reflective discussions of its historical, philosophical and social circumstances, and of the development of science more generally. The approach of the book is exploratory rather than dogmatic. The reader is encouraged to be an active participant - to use the historical narrative to understand and criticize some of the more recent, influential ideas about science and scientists; to draw conclusions and especially to pose questions about how and why changes occur in scientific knowledge and practice.The book may be read as an introduction to and history of central concepts of modern geology; as a social and intellectual account of a major revolution in science; and as an incisive commentary on and constructive criticism of several interpretations of the nature of science and the process of scientific change. Its structure, content and approach make it accessible to general readers, yet at the same time of interest to professionals and students of geology and of the history, philosophy and sociology of science.

' omer Le Grand's new treatment of the history of continental drift gives an excellent account of this fascinating chapter of modern scientific change ... it is warmly recommended to earth scientists of all shades.' Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors


Acknowledgements; 1. Introduction; 2. Solid as a rock?: geology before Wegener; 3. Wegener and his theory: antecedents and arguments; 4. Debate around the earth; 5. Specialties, localism and problem-solving; 6. Interregum: competition and stalemate; 7. Palaeomagnetism, drift and polar wandering; 8. Patterns and puzzles from the sea; 9. Shifting theories; 10. The 'revolution' proclaimed; 11. Theories of scientific change and the modern revolution in geology; Bibliography; Index.

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