Abstract

Many geologists think of geology as a young science that originated about 1800, two centuries after the Copernican Revolution in astronomy and physics gave rise to modern science. We suggest that this view ignores the early history of what is now geology, and we argue that the Copernican Revolution represented not only a revolution in astronomy and physics, but also a radical change in understanding the Earth. Prior to the Copernican Revolution the concepts of “Earth” and “planet” had nothing whatsoever to do with each other, but after that revolution scientists recognized that Earth itself is one of the planets, and they rejected the Aristotelian view that Earth is made of fundamentally different material than are the Sun, stars, and planets. This was an essential step in the development of a valid science of geology, and the Copernican Revolution should therefore be considered not only an episode in the history of astronomy and physics, but as a central part of the history of geology as well.

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