James David Forbes (1809–1868) became a geological traveller in 1826 when, at the age of 17, he visited Naples with his family. Not content to be an ordinary, superficial tourist, he undertook sophisticated geological investigations of Mount Vesuvius and other well-known volcanic phenomena. On his return to Scotland, following a trip of some fifteen months abroad, Forbes wrote two anonymous papers based on his Italian experiences. When David Brewster, editor of the Edinburgh Journal of Sciences, accepted both, Forbes continued his submissions with an eight-part series entitled Physical Notices of the Bay of Naples, all of which appeared. These essays, summarized here, were—for such a young author—remarkably accomplished. Esteemed as genuine contributions to geological literature, they were cited approvingly over a period of twenty-five years by such prominent older geologists as Charles Lyell, K. E. A. von Hoff, Ami Boué, and Sir Henry De la Beche.
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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.