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Leonardo da Vinci's and Nicolaus Steno's geology

Gian Battista Vai
Leonardo da Vinci's and Nicolaus Steno's geology
Earth Sciences History (October 2021) 40 (2): 293-331


Anniversaries for the two founding fathers of geology occurring in the same year prompted a comparative evaluation of how the two contributed to establishing the basic principles of the discipline. To do so, passages from their publications, codices and manuscripts have been quoted directly. The Stenonian principles ('original horizontality', 'original continuity', and 'superposition of individual strata') are present in Leonardo's notebooks amazingly formulated, using similar wording when studying the same area more than 150 years earlier. Also, Stenonian priority in naming and explaining geological concepts and processes (e.g., faulting, folding, angular unconformity, relative chronology) are mirrored in Leonardo's writings and pictorial works. While Steno enjoys priority in stepwise restoration of the geological history of a given region, Leonardo was the first to construct a 3D geological profile representation and geomorphologic maps. Lastly, the paper focuses on diverging stances of the two savants about the Noachian Deluge and the age of the Earth. Already 500 years ago, Leonardo had solved the question of marine fossil remains of organic origin found in the mountains implying the possibility of deep geologic time in a statement of 'eternalism'. 350 years ago, Steno solved the same question in a different way in which he retained a basic role for the Deluge and assumed a short age for the Earth by focusing mainly on short-lived sedimentary and geomorphologic processes.

ISSN: 0736-623X
EISSN: 1944-6187
Serial Title: Earth Sciences History
Serial Volume: 40
Serial Issue: 2
Title: Leonardo da Vinci's and Nicolaus Steno's geology
Author(s): Vai, Gian Battista
Affiliation: Universita di Bologna, Museo Geologico Giovanni Capellini, Bologna, Italy
Pages: 293-331
Published: 202110
Text Language: English
Publisher: History of the Earth Sciences Society, Troy, NY, United States
References: 111
Accession Number: 2022-058622
Categories: Miscellaneous
Document Type: Serial
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Illustration Description: illus. incl. sects.
N38°00'00" - N45°00'00", E08°19'60" - E17°00'00"
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2022, American Geosciences Institute. Reference includes data from GeoScienceWorld, Alexandria, VA, United States
Update Code: 2022
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