A story of things yet-to-be:: the status of geology in the United States in 1807
Julie R. Newell, 2009. "A story of things yet-to-be:: the status of geology in the United States in 1807", The Making of the Geological Society of London, C. L. E. Lewis, S. J. Knell
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In the 1780s observations of geological phenomena by American authors appeared in American publications. Europeans had also begun to explore the American geological landscape, notably the immigrant William Maclure. But an American geological community had not yet formed by 1807. Much of this apparent ‘delay’ in the development of the geological sciences in the United States resulted from the cultural and political realities of the new nation. In a new and democratic–egalitarian society, it took time to negotiate the nature of the appropriate public support for the practice of science. Individuals with the resources to provide private patronage for scientific undertakings were exceedingly few. The educational institutions that would ultimately be a major factor in the transmission and extension of geological knowledge were only then beginning to multiply and grow. In 1807 Benjamin Silliman completed his first year of science instruction at Yale, but offered only chemistry and mineralogy. Geology would wait several more years. Other institutions and individuals critical to the future of geology in the United States were ‘born’ in 1807 – including the United States Coast Survey, and Louis Agassiz and David Dale Owen. Roughly another decade would pass before a ‘geological community’ would emerge in the United States.
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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.