Taxonomy term

history

Books: The once and future San Andreas Fault

One of the most famous pictures of the San Andreas Fault — taken by G.K. Gilbert, the pioneering geologist whose late-19th century insights into faults and the earthquake cycle were close to prescient — shows a woman standing next to the ruptured fault immediately after the 1906 earthquake.

27 Jul 2014

April 20, 1832: Arkansas' hot springs named the First National "Park"

In March 1872, not long after William Henry Jackson’s photographs from the famed Hayden Geological Survey first introduced the U.S. populace to the rugged majesty of northwestern Wyoming, President Ulysses S. Grant designated Yellowstone as the country’s first official national park. Some 40 years earlier, however, a comparatively small plot of land in Arkansas had garnered a similar designation, albeit in different terminology, from then-President Andrew Jackson.

20 Apr 2014

Travels in Geology: Gubbio, Italy: A geologist's mecca

The author makes a pilgrimage to the medieval Apennine mountain town of Gubbio, Italy, where studies of the limestone layers just outside the town’s encircling walls produced one of the greatest geological discoveries of the 20th century.
02 Apr 2014

The past is key to the future: Historical observations strengthen modern science

 

Written records of natural phenomena come from personal journals and diaries, newspaper accounts, ship logs and government documents, among other sources. Such accounts often offer descriptive details and context that cannot be matched by other methods, and they can prove extremely useful in broadening records both temporally and geographically. Given that they predate the sort of widespread instrumental readings that scientists have come to depend on, sometimes there is simply — and literally — no substitute for historical data. Despite their advantages, historical records are used infrequently in modern physical sciences. That may be changing, however.

29 May 2013

Down to Earth With: The Swindling Geologist

When Clarence Dutton spoke, people listened. As one of the most famous geologists of the late 1800s, he regularly attracted large crowds to his talks. He also had a way with women. The president of an Indiana literary society once wrote to Dutton to confirm a lecture and assured the speaker that “the ladies would be delighted to see him again.”

 
10 Oct 2011

Benchmarks: April 9, 1895: James Edward Keeler confirms Saturn's rings not solid

On April 9 and 10, 1895, astronomer James Edward Keeler snapped the most important photographs of his life. With a 13-inch (33-centimeter) refracting telescope, Keeler captured proof that Saturn’s rings were not solid disks, but instead a collection of particles revolving around the planet. The discovery put to rest a question that astronomers had been pondering for more than two centuries.
 
01 Apr 2011

Keeler's legacy

James Edward Keeler led a brief life, but his legacy lives on. Scientists have named several natural phenomena after him.
 
01 Apr 2011

On Hannibal's Trail: The clues are in the geology

Standing at the summit of one of the Alps’ tallest mountain passes in the fall of 218 B.C., Hannibal peered into enemy territory: Italy’s Po River Valley. The panorama was reassuring. Hannibal’s plan — a sneak attack of the Romans on their own soil — was at last within reach. As his army trudged along a snow-covered path, Hannibal, Carthage’s greatest military leader, used the sight of Italy to encourage his ailing troops to keep going.

They needed the encouragement.

01 Oct 2010

Benchmarks: August 2, 1922: Marines invade Teapot Dome, deepen scandal

Early in the morning of Aug. 2, 1922, soldiers from the United States Marine Corps arrived at the train station in Casper, Wyo. They had been traveling for three days from the East Coast to reach an important government facility, officially designated the Naval Petroleum Reserve No. 3 (NPR-3), better known as Teapot Dome. Their orders, which President Warren Harding had approved only the week before, were to evict trespassers from a small oil claim in the northern end of the reserve. Following a quick breakfast, the soldiers proceeded north by car under the command of Capt. George K. Shuler. He had hand-picked the men, with whom he had fought in World War I.
 
02 Aug 2010

March 23, 1821: Bauxite Discovered

Compared to gold, silver, lead and copper — metals that people have extracted, refined and used for millennia — aluminum is a relative newcomer. Pure aluminum was more valuable than gold when it was first discovered in the early 19th century. It graced the fine china of Napoleon III and was displayed next to the French Crown Jewels at the 1855 Paris Exhibition. Today, aluminum is cheap and plentiful, used in everyday products ranging from soda cans to jets. The transformation of the metal from unknown material to rare metal to ubiquity in fewer than two centuries is due to two pivotal discoveries: an abundant aluminum ore — bauxite — and a process of refining this ore using electricity.
 
23 Mar 2010

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