English-speaking Earth scientists attribute, in general, the beginnings of modern geology to James Hutton and his “bulldog”, John Playfair. The Seashell on the Mountaintop presents the significant contributions of a remarkable Danish scientist who preceded the Hutton–Playfair duo by some 150 years. Although not unknown, this nordic pioneer certainly is underappreciated.

In the opening lecture of my undergraduate mineralogy course (it begins with crystallography; the horse should precede the cart, n’est-ce pas?), I dwell on an astute observation first recorded 350 years ago: The angle between corresponding crystal faces of a given mineral is constant from one specimen to another....

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