In his classic book “The Biosphere” published first in 1926, but available in English in later translations (Vernadsky, 1998) Vladimir Vernadsky described the role of the biosphere in shaping and indeed controlling the chemistry of the planet. There are countless prescient insights in this book, but one that I would like to highlight was Vernadsky’s assertion that, as far as he could see, the surface chemistry of the Earth had changed little through geologic time. This is apparent in the following remarkable statements which provide the earliest references of which I am aware to the long history of...

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