Studies on Eighteenth-Century Geology: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Studies on Eighteenth-Century Geology

1st Edition

By Rhoda Rappaport, edited by Kenneth L. Taylor


366 pages

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Hardback: 9781409429593
pub: 2011-10-28
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In a scholarly career spanning five decades, Rhoda Rappaport published perceptive analyses of science in the culture of early Modern Europe, France in particular, with strong emphasis on geology's early development. Of the sixteen papers in this volume, most focus on aspects of geology's cultivation during the 'long' 18th century, from the times of Hooke, Leibniz, and Fontenelle to those of Lavoisier, Werner, and Cuvier. Among the topics most closely treated here are the French mineralogical mapping project initiated by Guettard; contemporary efforts to interpret the earth historically (such as through Noah's Flood); and difficulties presented by the vocabulary often used in traditional histories of geology. Much of Rappaport's research addressed two problems prevalent within 18th-century earth science: the proper understanding of petrifactions, or fossil objects; and struggles to establish reliable knowledge of the earth's past. She also examined the chemistry of G.-F. Rouelle, which she saw as effectively an attempt at systematic comprehension of the entire mineral realm; trans-national features of scientific pursuits as illustrated in the careers of the naturalist Vallisneri and the mineralogist (and philosophe) d'Holbach; and aspects of science's promotion in France through government patronage and academic privilege.


’[Rhoda Rappaport’s work] remains impressive for its detail, its erudition, its clarity and its impressively thorough examination of complex issues, all viewed through the lenses provided by detailed and extensive archival researches. As mentioned already, her contributions were of a quality and scholarly influence that were out of all proportion to their bulk.’ Metascience ’… this volume provides […] rich insights on how the thought of an innovative historian of science evolves, turns to unexpected facts, broadens its scope and eventually addresses a variety of initially unforeseen questions along with their diverse ramifications.’ History of Geo- and Space Sciences 'This book is a deserved memorial volume…' Archives of Natural History 'The collection brings together a fine selection of important articles published by one of the leading twentieth-century experts on the social and scientific foundations of early modern geology.' Ambix

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Bibliography; Part I Chemistry: G.-F. Rouelle: an 18th-century chemist and teacher; Rouelle and Stahl: the phlogistic revolution in France. Part II The Mineralogical Atlas: Lavoisier's geologic activities, 1763-1792; Lavoisier's theory of the Earth; The geological atlas of Guettard, Lavoisier and Monnet: conflicting views of the nature of geology; The early disputes between Lavoisier and Monnet, 1777-1781. Part III Understanding the Earth and Its History: Hooke on earthquakes: lectures, strategy and audience; Fontenelle interprets the Earth's history; Leibnitz on geology: a newly discovered text; Geology and orthodoxy: the case of Noah's Flood in 18th-century thought. Part IV The Language of Earth Science: Borrowed words: problems of vocabulary in 18th-century geology; Dangerous words: diluvialism, Neptunism, catastrophism. Part V Scientific Pursuits in Early Modern Europe: Italy and Europe: the case of Antonio Vallisneri (1661-1730); Baron d'Holbach's campaign for German (and Swedish) science; Government patronage of science in 18th-century France; The liberties of the Paris Academy of Sciences, 1716-1785; Index.

About the Authors

Rhoda Rappaport was Professor Emeritus of History at Vassar College, USA.

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:
SCIENCE / Earth Sciences / Geology