January 7 is Old Rock Day – a celebration of the Earth’s rocks, their incredible history, and the amazing geologists who help us understand them.
The study of rocks was first introduced by the Ancient Greek Theophrastus (287 BC) in his work, “Peri Lithon” (“On Stones”), and became the cornerstone of geology for other interested scientists. The study was advanced by Pliny the Elder, who recorded numerous minerals and metals in great detail, with a particular focus on their practical use. Although working without the tools we use today, Pliny was able to correctly identify the origin of amber as fossilized tree resin.
It wasn’t until 1603 when the word ‘geology’ was used for the first time by Italian naturalist Ulisse Aldrovandi. It took a further 150 years for the first geological maps to be drawn by British geologist William Smith, whose work began the process of ordering rock layers by examining the fossils contained in them.
Then, in 1785, James Hutton wrote and presented a paper to the Royal Society of Edinburgh called ‘Theory of the Earth’, which outlined his belief that the world was far older than previously thought. His breakthroughs make him widely considered the first modern geologist.
To read Robert King’s poem “Geology” click:
by Robert King
I know the origin of rocks, settling
out of water, hatching crystals
from fire, put under pressure
in various designs I gathered
pretty, picnic after picnic.
And I know about love, a little,
igneous lust, the slow affections
of the sedimentary, the pressure
on earth out of sight to rise up
into material, something solid
you can hold, a whole mountain,
for example, or a loose collection
of pebbles you forgot you were keeping.
© 2005 by Robert King