Light and shadow:: the status of Italian geology around 1807
The stratigraphical approach and geological mapping of William Smith in England and Georges Cuvier in France gave birth to modern geology. However, before 1815 neither used the word ‘geology’, a term first coined by Ulisse Aldrovandi in 1603. At the turn of the nineteenth century most leading geoscientists were based in France and Germany, but those in Britain were poised to take over the lead. After three centuries of dominance in science and geology, was Italian geology in decline? A review of the works of Italian geologists and the role these played in disseminating Italian geological research has been undertaken to examine this question. The French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars shocked the Italian states, disrupted the economic order and discontinued the progress of science. Nevertheless, from 1759 to 1859 over 40 classic papers in geology were published in Italy. Among them, Gian Battista Brocchi’s Conchiologia Fossile is the most renowned for having inspired Charles Lyell’s work. In the middle decades of the nineteenth century Italian geoscientists made up the majority of foreign members of both the French and English geological societies. The Italian Geological Society was not formed until 1881. This was largely due to the earlier political fragmentation of Italy into many small states.
Figures & Tables
The Making of the Geological Society of London
Founded in 1807, the Geological Society of London became the world’s first learned society devoted to the Earth sciences. In celebration of the Society’s 200-year history, this book commemorates the lives of the Society’s 13 founders and sets geology in its national and European context at the turn of the nineteenth century. In Britain, geology was emerging as a subject in its own right from three closely related disciplines — chemistry, mineralogy and medicine — disciplines that reflect the principal professions and interests of the founders. The tremendous energy and cooperation of these 13 men, about whom little was previously known, quickly mobilized like-minded men around the country and fuelled the nation’s passion for geology; an enthusiasm that soon spread to America and Australia. Two previously unpublished works from this period, essential to understanding the founding of the Society, are reproduced here for the first time. The book closes with a review of the Society’s 2007 Bicentenary celebrations.