Abstract

Nicholas Steno (1638–1686) compiled a notebook in 1659 when he was a student at the University of Copenhagen. Titled Chaos by Steno, it remains unstudied in English-speaking countries, despite having been translated in 1997. Chaos adds important insight into geology's place in the Scientific Revolution. It shows Steno disengaging from speculations about the cosmos based on the ruling paradigms of Aristotelian metaphysics and Cartesian misconceptions in favor of an empirical model based on the new mathematics of geometry applied to all of nature, from what we now would consider the atomic level, to the human body, and to the planet. Steno thereby earns heretofore unacknowledged credit for helping to establish the geometric definition of form that makes it possible to understand the evolution of the structure of organisms as well as of the planet.

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