An historical perspective of geological time, from the seventeenth century to the discovery of radioactivity, and on to modern-day applications of geochronology. Contributors come from the fields of geology and geochemistry, palaeontology, biology, archaeology, astronomy, and the history of science.
The age of the Earth has always been a subject of great interest to scientists from many disciplines – geologists, biologists, archaeologists, astronomers and historians. This volume, The Age of the Earth: From 4004 BC to AD 2002, brings together contributors from these different subjects to discuss various aspects of the theme. It opens with a historical perspective, touching on the works of eminent scholars from the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries, describing how conceptions of the Earth's history changed over this period. We are taken from the time when state-enforced religious orthodoxy throughout Europe dictated the age of the Earth, through to the nineteenth century when geology emerged as a rigorous and self-contained science. Through stratigraphic work, fossils became established as useful time markers and the scientists of the day turned to the deduction of time from the products of geomorphological processes. By the end of the nineteenth century the debate between geologists and physicists was at its peak. The effort to quantify geological time affected the theory and practice of geology and was largely resonsible for it maturing into a professional scientific discipline. Through the science of geochronology, increasingly refined techniques developed to measure the age of the Earth. However, it should be borne in mind that the now-accepted age can be considered a 'geochemical coincidence' which still remains a contentious issue.
The concluding parts of The Age of the Earth discuss a number of related topics: the search for the oldest rocks on earth; a biologist's viewpoint of the history and pattern of life on Earth; how a refinement of radiocarbon and non-radiocarbon physical dating techniques has impacted on the search for our ancient hominid ancestors; and, finally, cosmology and the questions surrounding the age of the universe."
- Before the hills in order stood: the beginning of the geology of time in England
- European views on terrestrial chronology from Descartes to the mid-eighteenth century
- Buffon, Desmarest and the ordering of geological events in epoques; Jean-Andre de Luc and nature's chronology
- Timeless order: William Smith (1769 - 1839) and the search for raw materials 1800 - 1820
- Genesis and geochronology: the case of John Phillips (1800 - 1874)
- 'Had Lord Kelvin a right?': JohnPerry, natural selection and the age of the Earth, 1894 - 1895
- John Joly (1857 - 1933) and his determinations of the age of the Earth
- Arthur Holmes' vision of a geological timescale
- The age of the Earth in the United States, 1891 - 1931, from the geological viewpoint
- Is the Earth too old? The impact of geochronology on cosmology 1929 - 1952
- The oldest rocks on Earth: time constraints and geological controversies
- The age of the Earth in the twentieth century: a problem (mostly) solved
- Lead isotopes amd the age of the Earth - a geochemical accident
- Fossils as geological clocks
- Time, life and the Earth
- Dating the origin of humans
- Understanding the beginning and the end