From graphical display to dynamic model: mathematical geology in the Earth sciences in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries
Published:January 01, 2002
Richard J. Howarth, 2002. "From graphical display to dynamic model: mathematical geology in the Earth sciences in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries", The Earth Inside and Out: Some Major Contributions to Geology in the Twentieth Century, David R. Oldroyd
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Graphical displays were used early in geophysics and crystallography, mineralogy, petrology and structural geology by the early 1800s, but nineteenth-century geology obstinately remained mainly descriptive. Charles Lyell's quantitative classification of the Tertiary Sub-Era in 1828 was a notable exception. Nevertheless, by 1920 the quantitative approach had become established. W. C. Krumbein, who introduced the computer into geology in 1958, encouraged use of probabilistic sampling and process-response models. Early work focused on databases, statistical data analysis and display. By the 1970s, stochastic simulation, deterministic modelling and spatial 'geostatistics' (pioneered by Matheron and his co-workers), were of growing importance. The introduction of the personal computer and the graphical user interface in the 1980s brought well-proven quantitative methods out of the research environment onto the workbench and into the field. Since the mid-1980s, the analysis, display and modelling of behaviour in three dimensions, underpinned by spatial statistics, computational fluid-flow, visualization technology, etc., has proved of economic benefit to mining, petroleum geology and hydrogeology. Other, computationally intensive, methods likely to be of importance in the Earth sciences are the application of 'robust' statistical methods, increasing use of Bayesian methods in uncertainty (risk) estimation (as a result of a renewed interest in statistical intervals and forecasting), and computational mineralogy.
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The Earth Inside and Out: Some Major Contributions to Geology in the Twentieth Century
This volume is a collection of papers on the history of twentieth century geology, of which eight were presented at a Symposium organized by the International Commission on the History of Geological Sciences (INHIGEO) for the International Geological Congress at Rio de Janeiro in 2000.
The book offers a conspectus of selected developments of twentieth century geology. It has grown from largely a field discipline, chiefly concerned with rocks at the Earth's surface, to one that extends to the planet's interior, and to space beyond. New ideas, instruments, and techniques have extended the scope of earth science to the macro and the micro. Theories abound. One paper raises some of the social and political problems faced by modern geology.
The volume is intended as a prolegomenon to some future synthetic understanding of twentieth century earth sciences. It should appeal to a wide range of geoscientists and historians of science.