Geology, as far as it had advanced 50 years ago, was largely based upon the simple principle first enunciated by Nicholas Steno—that of superposition. But no successful chronology could have been worked out in the early days had it not been for the presence of invertebrate fossils in the stratified rocks. Invertebrate paleontology, therefore, since the beginning of the nineteenth century, has been an integral part of geology. Until the dawn of the evil days of specialization 40 or 50 years ago, most geologists had a working knowledge of fossils, and the number of those who could be designated as invertebrate paleontologists rather than geologists was small. That there were any such seems to be due largely to the fact that in all ages there have been those who were attracted by “natural curiosities”. There were collectors of fossils centuries before there was a science of paleontology. Fossils were described and figured and traded by people who could not decide whether they were organic or inorganic.
This bit of well-known history is repeated here because it explains why so many of the contributions of the invertebrate paleontologists are descriptive. In the first place, such work is necessary; in the second, most invertebrate paleontologists, sensu stricto, started as amateurs of their subject and remained such, even though, in some cases, their labors provided them a livelihood of a sort.
Figures & Tables
Published in celebration of the Geological Society of America’s 50th anniversary, this 578-page volume presents the progress in geology from 1888 to 1938. Written to serve as a comprehensive summary, both for the generalist and the specialist, it explores the fundamental fields of geology, including physiography, glacial geology, oceanography, invertebrate paleontology, vertebrate paleontology, prehistoric archeology, paleobotany, stratigraphy, sedimentation, structural geology, pre-Cambrian, mineralogy, petrology, volcanology, geochemistry, general geophysics, seismology, ore deposits, petroleum geology, exploratory geophysics, and engineering geology.