Addressing the history of the earth in terms of geological process and the resolution of the fossil record, Martin presents a lucid report on the current state of knowledge on a group of interconnected themes - process, scale and hierarchy, and the methodologies of historical science. He examines several pivotal questions about geologic history: What is the evidence for processes that occur over long periods of geologic history? Why are these long-term processes significant to the human race? How does one test hypotheses using the fossil record? And what, at the present state of knowledge, are the limits of the record?
RONALD E. MARTIN is associate professor of geology at the University of Delaware, Newark. He is the winner of the Best Paper Award for 1996 for his essay "Secular Increase in Nutrient Levels Through the Phanerozoic: Implications for Productivity, Biomass, and Diversity of the Marine Biosphere," which appeared in the journal Palaios.