Plutonism versus Neptunism at the southern tip of Africa: the debate on the origin of granites at the Cape, 1776–1844
Sharad Master, 2010. "Plutonism versus Neptunism at the southern tip of Africa: the debate on the origin of granites at the Cape, 1776–1844", Sixth Hutton Symposium on The Origin of Granites and Related Rocks: Proceedings of a Symposium held in Stellenbosch, South Africa, 2- 6 July 2007, John D. Clemens, Colin Donaldson, Carol D. Frost, Alexander F.M. Kisters, Jean-François Moyen, Tracy Rushmer, Gary Stevens
Download citation file:
The Cape Granites are a granitic suite intruded into Neoproterozoic greywackes and slates, and unconformably overlain by early Palaeozoic Table Mountain Group orthoquartzites. They were first recognised at Paarl in 1776 by Francis Masson, and by William Anderson and William Hamilton in 1778. Studies of the Cape Granites were central to some of the early debates between the Wernerian Neptunists (Robert Jameson and his former pupils) and the Huttonian Plutonists (John Playfair, Basil Hall, Charles Darwin), in the first decades of the 19th Century, since it is at the foot of Table Mountain that the first intrusive granites outside of Scotland were described by Hall in 1812. The Neptunists believed that all rocks, including granite and basalt, were precipitated from the primordial oceans, whereas the Plutonists believed in the intrusive origin of some igneous rocks, such as granite. In this paper, some of the early descriptions and debates concerning the Cape Granites are reviewed, and the history of the development of ideas on granites (as well as on contact metamorphism and sea level changes) at the Cape in the late 18th Century and early to mid 19th Century, during the emerging years of the discipline of geology, is presented for the first time.