When the editors invited me to write they knew that I had begun field work on the Canadian Shield sixty years ago and had known many who had contributed to the great changes and developments in Precambrian geology. Unfortunately for the past seventeen years I have been fully engaged in administration and have not read the recent literature. This paper is thus a personal account and poorly documented. I’m not even sure which of the ideas advanced are accepted and which are still regarded as heretical.
In 1924, I started work in the woods, while still a schoolboy, and for much of the summers of 1926, 1927, and 1928 was field assistant to Noel E. Odell who had just returned from an expedition to Mount Everest on which he had been geologist and had made great efforts to find G. Mallory and A. Irvine, lost in their attempt to reach the summit. He was such an attractive teacher that on returning to the University of Toronto in 1927 I applied to transfer from a major in physics to one in geology. My professors were appalled. Physics was then in its heyday, but geology was held in very low esteem. Ernest Rutherford had compared it to postage-stamp collecting for it consisted of making maps by identifying and locating rocks and fossils. Instruments and methods were primitive and geology lacked general theories, which were scorned as “armchair geology.” This was in striking contrast to the precise theories common in physics, but few considered that Wegener’s concept of continents drifting slowly about had any merit, and no one, that I can recall, realized that therein lay the explanation for the lack of theories in geology.
Figures & Tables
Geologists and Ideas
An unusually coherent, well-written volume. Prepared for DNAG by the History of Geology Division of GSA. Spotlights events, ideas, and people, and sheds light on the history of North American geology as a whole. With its many intellectual jewels on the evolution of scientific concepts, this book will provide many happy hours of entertainment and instruction for anyone interested in the history of science, especially that of the earth sciences. Thirty-four papers are organized into four categories: (1) The Evolution of Significant Ideas; (2) Contributions of Individuals; (3) Contributions of Organized Groups; and (4) Application of Significant Ideas. Excellent as a course-book or for additional reading for classes related to the history of geology or general science.