Geological travellers in view of their philosophical and economical intentions: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) and Caspar Maria Count Sternberg (1761–1838)
C. Schweizer, 2007. "Geological travellers in view of their philosophical and economical intentions: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) and Caspar Maria Count Sternberg (1761–1838)", Four Centuries of Geological Travel: The Search for Knowledge on Foot, Bicycle, Sledge and Camel, P. N. Wyse Jackson
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Two geological travellers, who clearly differ in their approach to scientific questions and their interpretation, are presented. Goethe was mainly interested in natural phenomenon and linking the interpretation of his observations in a deductive approach to a philosophically and psychologically influenced, more general view of natural mechanisms. Sternberg, on the other hand, chose an inductive approach in his conclusions from geological observations and never inclined to any philosophical explanations behind them. Goethe's natural philosophy behind his scientific concepts was strongly formed by Baruch de Spinoza (1632–1677) and led to his own subjective approach of interpreting scientific phenomena. However, Sternberg's knowledge of geognosy along the formations in the Habsburg region and in Germany is based on numerous observations at various locations and on the comparison of his findings, having a vast general knowledge on the geology of a wide area. Goethe and Sternberg's correspondence between 1820–1832 gives insight into the specific differences between these two travellers and their individual methods of geological investigation.
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In the last four centuries geologists have traversed the globe, searching for economically important materials or simply to satisfy their intellectual curiosity. Geologists have often been at the vanguard of scientific exploration.
The microscopist Robert Hooke explored the Isle of Wight, and Charles Darwin the Cape Verde islands and parts of South America. The volcanic wonders of Italy and central France attracted native and foreign visitors including Lyell and Murchison. The Tyrrell brothers faced great hardship in northern Canada, as did the actor and mineralogist Charles Lewis Giesecke in Greenland. The development of Sydney, Australia depended on finding limestone for building. French geologists relied on camels in the Sahara, and Grenville Cole trusted his tricycle to carry him across Europe.
Four Centuries of Geological Travel: The Search for Knowledge on Foot, Bicycle, Sledge and Camel focuses on the complexities of geological exploration and will be of particular interest to Earth scientists, historians of science and to the general reader interested in science.