- Hardcover: 648 pages
- Publisher: University of Chicago Press; 1 edition (July 1, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0226731286
- ISBN-13: 978-0226731285
- Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.4 x 10 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,905,776 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Worlds Before Adam: The Reconstruction of Geohistory in the Age of Reform 1st Edition
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"Magisterial...A thoroughly engaging and utterly sympathetic treatment of the notable figures who laid the foundation for modern geology in the period between 1820 and 1845, their inspirations and intellectual triumphs, and their stubbornly held misconceptions....With their highly individualistic flair and immense erudition, this volume and its predecessor are not just essential reading for any scientist; they are also landmark volumes in the history of ideas and a brilliant scholarly achievement."
"Like its predecessor, Worlds Before Adam is the product of painstaking research. It appears dauntingly long but is a delight to read. Rudwick’s style is lucid and engaging throughout, and he is unfailingly courteous to his nonspecialist readers, ensuring that all terms and concepts are fully explained and avoiding unnecessary jargon. The book’s strictly chronological arrangement gives it a strong narrative thrust, and its many beautifully printed illustrations and generous quotations from original sources enhance the sense of primary contact with the evidence. . . . In these two graceful and judicious volumes, the culmination of a distinguished career, Rudwick has restored geology to its rightful historical place at the heart of modern scientific culture."
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In 1793 savant Jean-Andre de Luc stated "I do not believe I should be accused of longueur, by those who recognize that I am here tracing - from its monuments - the fundamental basis of the ancient history of Men, since it concerns their habitation". Author Martin Rudwick comments that "after a good start [de Luc] soon relapsed into his customary verbosity". In fairness after these 708 and 614 page tomes, Rudwick is in no position to thus accuse anyone. De Luc went on to discuss erratic boulders perched high on hills and across plains; lakes acting as natural `chronometers' as they had not yet been silted up by incoming sediment; and subterranean caverns which opened to contain the water required to reduce sea level at various geological times; and so on.
Books like these are rare. For those who want an escape from professional work, family, politics, or the stock exchange these are the ticket. An escape to the intellectual world of 1789 - 1823 and 1820 - 1845 respectively. Absorbed in the historical geological debate with the `savants' of the day we can feel, with the benefit of hindsight, either how hopelessly wrong or spectacularly correct the intellectual speculation can be about honest observations.
These are not books to be read rapidly like a novel. They are an escape to ponder 10 - 15 pages at a time whenever possible, hoping never to come to the end. They allow the reader to live the discovery of geology. We can wonder how and why the author devoted so much time to produce the two tomes. But it was not in vain. Often scientists who achieve breakthroughs personally engender a school of acolytes who develop the new field further.The reason is that learning from a master shows how a discovery was made not just what the discovery was. Perhaps Rudwick's books do this for geology - we understand how the field developed not just the bare results.
It follows naturally from the author's "Bursting the Limits of Time," which I think one should read before this. The book is beautiful. I cannot believe the publisher is making any money at the sales price.
This volume continues the story through the first half of the 19th century when the field of geology attained a certain degree of maturity. While I still found the story fascinating, this volume tended to be unnecessarily repetitive, at least partly because the author's habit of recapping a chapter caused the shorter chapters in this volume to have a larger fraction of recaps (called "conclusions"). It would have been an easier and shorter read if some of the repetition were omitted.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed it a lot and particularly enjoyed the environment which the field of geology developed which turned out to be the setting for Darwin a few years later. (Darwin does appear in the book, as a geologist!) Definitely recommended; just not as good as the first volume.