One October afternoon in 1965, I was playing cards with a group of American Peace Corps Volunteers in Medellin, Colombia. I was back in town for a short break from fieldwork in the central Andes. Skimming a copy of Time magazine in the Volunteers’ apartment, I learned of the recent death of the eminent British geologist Arthur Holmes at the age of 75, perchance on my 30th birthday. Later that afternoon, on my way to supper, I stopped by the Post Office to find a small but heavy package. It contained the new and fully revised 2nd edition of Holmes’s...

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