In this chapter, new to this edition of The Geology of Scotland, we discuss some of the more interesting and important themes and personalities relating to the early history of Scottish geology. The topic is vast, and clearly it is impossible to cover all possible themes. A ‘regional’ approach is adopted, concentrating on selected areas of particular importance.
Present debates are necessarily rooted in the past. They grow from a complex intertwining of geographical, theoretical, personal, social, methodological, institutional and economic factors. We have sought to refer, albeit briefly, to all such aspects, but different features receive different emphases in the different regional accounts. The emphasis is chiefly on 19th century geology, but in most cases discussion has been carried through to the early 20th century, and in some cases we have briefly indicated how matters developed closer to the present. Although the material is organised chiefly by regions, an effort has also been made, as far as the subject matter allows, to provide a historically integrated account. Thus, we hope to offer a useful historical background to the more technical topics that appear in following chapters. The aim, however, is not to see the past from the eyes of the present; rather to see the present with the assistance of some knowledge of the past. Reversing the old adage, we should like to show that ‘the past is the key to the present’.
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This 4th edition of The Geology of Scotland is edited by Dr Nigel Trewin of the Department of Geology and Petroleum Geology at the University of Aberdeen. The volume is greatly expanded from the previous edition with 34 authors contributing to 20 chapters.
A new format has been adopted to provide a different perspective on the geology of Scotland. A brief Introduction is followed by a chapter outlining some of the important historical aspects that in the 19th century placed Scottish geologists at the forefront of a new science.
Scotland is constructed from a number of terranes that finally combined in roughly their present positions prior to about 410 million years ago. Thus the geology of each terrane is described up to the time of amalgamation, providing chapters on the Southern Uplands, Midland Valley, Northern Highland, Grampian and Hebridean terranes. At the end of this section, a brief synthesis summarizes the events that resulted in the amalgamation of the various terranes into the present configuration.
Traditional practice is followed in the description of the Old Red Sandstone, Carboniferous, Permo-Trias, Jurassic, Cretaceous, Tertiary and Quaternary strata. A separate chapter covers Tertiary igneous rocks. An attempt is made to tell the story of the geological evolution of Scotland, rather than catalogue all areas and formations. Priority is given to the onshore geology, encouraging the reader to go into the field and visit some of the world-class geology on show in Scotland. The chapters are broadly-based, attempting to integrate the sedimentary and igneous histories, and summarize changes in palaeogeography and palaeoenvironments.
Economic aspects are covered with chapters on Metalliferous Minerals, Bulk Resources, Coal and Hydrocarbons. A new departure is a chapter on aspects of Environmental Geology and sustainability.
Additionally, this publication contains a colour section of 32 plates, illustrating aspects of Scottish Geology, as well as a coloured geological map of Scotland.