The study of sediments has always occupied the attention of geologists. In the early days of geology, the description and discussion of sediments were largely incorporated in general reports, but today sedimentation forms the entire subject matter of many papers. This present tendency toward focusing attention on sediments in certain articles is another manifestation of the trend in science from the general to the more particulate. A concrete illustration of the greater specialization in the field of sedimentation is the increase in number of articles devoted mainly to the study of sediments in the Bulletin of The Geological Society of America. In the first decade of its existence, an average of three papers a year related chiefly to sedimentation, whereas at present the average is about 12 papers a year.
Interest in the study of sediments has increased more or less steadily during the last 50 years, just as it has for other branches of geology, but since 1930 the interest in sediments has been particularly great. As a result, much information about sediments has been brought to light, but it consists to a considerable extent of details about the characteristics and properties of different sediments.
The general features of sediments and many of the fundamental processes affecting their deposition have been known for a long time. Daubree, Delesse, Sorby, and Sternberg, in the 1870’s and earlier, had written about the laws governing the transport and rounding of particles by running water, and their work was followed in the 1880’s by investigations of others—notably Breon, Bonney, Gilbert, Von Hochenberger, and Mann. The main characteristics of beach and littoral deposits had been recognized and described by Forchhammer before 1850. Deltaic deposits had been discussed by Beaumont and Lyell in the 1830’s; by Hilgard, Forshey, and Credner in the 1870’s; and by Sollas in the 1880’s. Cuttings from deep wells in the Mississippi delta were examined by Forshey in 1873.
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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.