Doing and knowing: Charles Darwin and other travellers
In the 1830s, geology was a young discipline in the process of acquiring uniform standards. This study considers Charles Darwin's work in relation to that of other more practically and less academically oriented travellers. It suggests a continuity exists between the more practically and the more academically-minded groups in such projects as exploring, mining, map and chart making, collecting of specimens, and travel writing. It also highlights the role played by William Fitton as an academically-minded geologist whose instructions on collecting and observing were intended to raise standards for geologists. It suggests that such disciplinary improvements were not unique to geology but reflected a more general willingness at the time to instruct and be instructed.
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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.