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Jean-André de Luc (or Deluc) (1727–1817), who first proposed the term ‘geology’ almost in its modern sense, was one of the most prominent geologists of his time. His ‘theory of the Earth’, published in several versions between 1778 and 1809, divided geohistory in binary manner into two distinct phases. The fossiliferous strata had been formed during a prehuman ‘ancient history’ of immense but unquantifiable duration. Then the present continents had emerged above sea-level in a sudden physical ‘revolution’, at the start of the Earth’s ‘modern history’ of human occupation. De Luc argued that the rates of ‘actual causes’ or...

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