Abstract

William Thomson was among the first scientists to try to understand thermogeology: the flow and storage of heat in the Earth. His interest in the field can be regarded as one of the fruits of a life-long love affair with the ‘mathematical poem’ of Joseph Fourier, which Thomson applied to a wide range of physical problems. For his inaugural lecture at Glasgow University, Thomson somewhat randomly selected terrestrial heat flow as an example to illustrate Fourier’s mathematics. Nevertheless, Thomson became ‘hooked’ on thermogeology: he spent a substantial proportion of his career trying to parameterize his thermogeological conceptual model, one of his goals being to establish the age of the Earth.

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