Sciences of the Earth: Studies in the History of Mineralogy and Geology, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Sciences of the Earth

Studies in the History of Mineralogy and Geology, 1st Edition

By David Oldroyd


356 pages

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Hardback: 9780860787709
pub: 1998-11-27

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Sciences of the Earth first presents a connected series of papers on the history of mineralogy in relation to chemistry, from the Renaissance to the beginning of the 19th century. It considers some of the important philosophical ideas that underpinned early thinking about minerals and earths, and also the practicalities of mineral analysis. Other papers in the volume examine the influence of historicist thinking in the emergence of historical geology; the application of Michel Foucault's ideas to the mineral kingdom; the geological ideas of Robert Hooke, with reference to his views on scientific method; the 'problem' of Whig history of science, considering as example Archibald Geikie's work as historian of geology; and the application of 'grid/group' theory to early 19th-century English geology. To open, there is a paper dealing with a Roman theory of volcanic activity, little known to historians of science.


'The usefulness of collections of papers like this one is well attested to, especially in a field such as the history of science where papers are published in a variety of journals, from the technical through those of the humanities, and across national borders…this is a fine collection of original and thoughtful articles, not only full of the results of extensive scholarship, but written in a way to inspire reflection on what it means to write history of science.' Metascience, Vol. 8, No. 3 'Sciences of the Earth is…of great use and value for historians of geology and also for historians of science in general…every article can still be read with great profit.' Annals of Science, Vol. 57 '…a thought-provoking and stimulating book.' ISIS '… widely welcomed…' Ambix

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; A ’Geological’ Text from Antiquity: Science in the silver age: Aetna, a classical theory of volcanic activity; Early ideas about minerals and mineral analysis: Some Neo-Platonic and Stoic influences on mineralogy in the 16th and 17th centuries; Mechanical mineralogy; Some phlogistic mineralogical schemes, illustrative of the evolution of the concept of 'Earth' in the 17th and 18th centuries; An examination of G.E. Stahl's Philosophical Principles of Universal Chemistry; A note on the status of A.F. Cronstedt's simple earths and his analytical methods; Mineralogy and the ’chemical revolution’; Some 18th-century methods for the chemical analysis of minerals; Edward Daniel Clarke, 1769-1822, and his role in the history of the blow-pipe; The Earth, Method, and History: Robert Hooke's methodology of science as exemplified in his 'Discourse of Earthquakes'; From Renaissance mineral studies to historical geology in the light of Michel Foucault’s The Order of Things; Historicism and the rise of historical geology; By grid and group divided: Buckland and the English geological community in the early 19th century; Sir Archibald Geikie ( 1835-1924): geologist, romantic aesthete, and historian of geology: the problem of Whig historiography of science; Index.

About the Series

Variorum Collected Studies

The first title in the Variorum Collected Studies series was published in 1970. Since then well over 1000 titles have appeared in the series, and it has established a well-earned international reputation for the publication of key research across a whole range of subjects within the fields of history.

The history of the medieval world remains central to the series, with Byzantine studies a particular speciality, but the range of titles extends from Hellenistic philosophy and the history of the Roman empire and early Christianity, through the Renaissance and Reformation, up to the 20th century. Islamic Studies forms another major strand as do the histories of science, technology and medicine.

Each title in the Variorum Collected Studies series brings together for the first time a selection of articles by a leading authority on a particular subject. These studies are reprinted from a vast range of learned journals, Festschrifts and conference proceedings. They make available research that is scattered, even inaccessible in all but the largest and most specialized libraries. With a new introduction and index, and often with new notes and previously unpublished material, they constitute an essential resource. 

For further information about contributing to the series please contact Michael Greenwood at

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General