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Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA.

Geology (from the Greek γῆ, gē, i.e. "earth" and -λoγία, -logia, i.e. "study of, discourse") is the science comprising the study of solid Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which they change. Geology can also refer generally to the study of the solid features of any celestial body (such as the geology of the Moon or Mars).


  • The subjective element in geological studies accounts for two characteristic types that can be distinguished among geologists. One considering geology as a creative art, the other regarding geology as an exact science.
Duria Antiquior famous watercolor by the geologist Henry Thomas De la Beche depicting life in ancient Dorset based on fossils found by Mary Anning.
  • Generally speaking, geologists seem to have been much more intent on making little worlds of their own, than in examining the crust of that which they inhabit. It would be much more desirable that facts should be placed in the foreground and theories in the distance, than that theories should be brought forward at the expense of facts. So that, in after times, when the speculations of the present day shall have passed away, from a greater accumulation of information, the facts may be readily seized and converted to account.
  • GEOLOGY, n. The science of the earth's crust —to which, doubtless, will be added that of its interior whenever a man shall come up garrulous out of a well. The geological formations of the globe already noted are catalogued thus: The Primary, or lower one, consists of rocks, bones of mired mules, gas-pipes, miners' tools, antique statues minus the nose, Spanish doubloons and ancestors. The Secondary is largely made up of red worms and moles. The Tertiary comprises railway tracks, patent pavements, grass, snakes, mouldy boots, beer bottles, tomato cans, intoxicated citizens, garbage, anarchists, snap-dogs and fools.
  • Geology holds the keys of one of the kingdoms of nature; and it cannot be said that a science which extends our Knowledge, and by consequence our Power, over a third part of nature, holds a low place among intellectual employments.
    • William Buckland As quoted in A Comparative Estimate of the Mineral and Mosaical Geologies (1825) by Granville Penn, p. 8.
  • Geology has shared the fate of other infant sciences, in being for a while considered hostile to revealed religion; so like them, when fully understood, it will be found a potent and consistent auxiliary to it, exalting our conviction of the Power, and Wisdom, and Goodness of the Creator.
    • William Buckland, as quoted in The Age of the World : Moses to Darwin (1959) by Francis C. Haber, p. 221.
  • Geology at first seems inconsistent with the authority of the Mosaic record. A storm of unreasoning indignation rises against its teachers. In time, its truths, being found quite irresistible, are admitted, and mankind continue to regard the Scriptures with the same respect as before. So also with several other sciences.
  • For a billion years the patient earth amassed documents and inscribed them with signs and pictures which lay unnoticed and unused. Today, at last, they are waking up, because man has come to rouse them. Stones have begun to speak, because an ear is there to hear them. Layers become history and, released from the enchanted sleep of eternity, life's motley, never-ending dance rises out of the black depths of the past into the light of the present.
  • A permanent base on Mars would have a number of advantages beyond being a bonanza for planetary science and geology. If, as some evidence suggests, exotic micro-organisms have arisen independently of terrestrial life, studying them could revolutionise biology, medicine and biotechnology.
  • We learn geology the morning after the earthquake on ghastly diagrams of cloven mountains, upheaved plains, and the dry bed of the sea.
  • Geology may be defined to be that branch of natural history which investigates the successive changes that have taken place in the organic and inorganic kingdoms of nature. It is a science founded on exact observation and careful induction; it may termed the physical history of our globe; it investigates the structure of the planet on which we live and explains the character and causes of the various changes in the organic and inorganic kingdoms of nature.
  • Geology is as intimately related to almost all the physical sciences, as is history to the moral.
    • William Humble in: “Dictionary of geology and mineralogy: comprising such terms in botany”, p. 104.
  • The past history of our globe must be explained by what can be seen to be happening now. No powers are to be employed that are not natural to the globe, no action to be admitted except those of which we know the principle.
    • James Hutton, Theory of the Earth. (Paper, published in Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1785).
  • Measuring nuclear yield depends on multiple parameters - the location and number of instruments, the geology of the area, the location of the seismic station in relation to the test site.
Astronomy concerns itself with the whole of the visible universe, of which our earth forms but a relatively insignificant part; while Geology deals with that earth regarded as an individual. Astronomy is the oldest of the sciences, while Geology is one of the newest. But the two sciences have this in common, that to both are granted a magnificence of outlook, and an immensity of grasp denied to all the rest. - Charles Lapworth.
  • Astronomy concerns itself with the whole of the visible universe, of which our earth forms but a relatively insignificant part; while Geology deals with that earth regarded as an individual. Astronomy is the oldest of the sciences, while Geology is one of the newest. But the two sciences have this in common, that to both are granted a magnificence of outlook, and an immensity of grasp denied to all the rest.
  • Geology is intimately related to almost all the physical sciences, as is history to the moral. An historian should, if possible, be at once profoundly acquainted with ethics, politics, jurisprudence, the military art, theology; in a word, with all branches of knowledge, whereby any insight into human affairs, or into the moral and intellectual nature of man, can be obtained. It would be no less desirable that a geologist should be well versed in chemistry, natural philosophy, mineralogy, zoology, comparative anatomy, botany; in short, in every science relating to organic and inorganic nature. With these accomplishments the historian and geologist would rarely fail to draw correct and philosophical conclusions from the various monuments transmitted to them of former occurrences.
    • Sir Charles Lyell, Principles of Geology (1830-3), Vol. 1, 2-3.
  • It was long ere the distinct nature and legitimate objects of geology were fully recognized, and it was at first confounded with many other branches of inquiry, just as the limits of history, poetry, and mythology were ill-defined in the infancy of civilization. Werner appears to have regarded geology as little other than a subordinate department of mineralogy and Desmarest included it under the head of Physical Geography. ...The first who endeavored to draw a clear line of demarcation between these distinct departments, was Hutton, who declared that geology was in no ways concerned with 'questions as to the origin of things.
    • Charles Lyell, Principles of geology (1832) Vol.1 Chpt.1, p. 4.
  • Strabo,... enters largely, in the Second Book of his Geography, into the opinions of Eratosthenes and other Greeks on one of the most difficult problems in geology, viz., by what causes marine shells came to be plentifully buried in the earth at such great elevations and distances from the sea. He notices, amongst others, the explanation of Xanthus the Lyclian, who said that the seas had once been more extensive, and that they had afterwards been partially dried up, as in his own time many lakes, rivers, and wells in Asia had failed during a season of drought. Treating this conjecture with merited disregard, Strabo passes on to the hypothesis of Strato, the natural philosopher, who had observed that the quantity of mud brought down by rivers into the Euxine was so great, that its bed must be gradually raised, while the rivers still continued to pour in an undiminished quantity of water. He therefore conceived that, originally, when the Euxine was an inland sea, its level had by this means become so much elevated that it burst its barrier near Byzantium, and formed a communication with the Propontis, and this partial drainage had already, he supposed, converted the left side into marshy ground, and that, at last, the whole would be choked up with soil. So, it was argued, the Mediterranean had once opened a passage for itself by the Columns of Hercules into the Atlantic, and perhaps the abundance of sea-shells in Africa, near the Temple of Jupiter Ammon, might also be the deposit of some former inland sea, which had at length forced a passage and escaped.
    • Charles Lyell, Principles of geology (1832) Vol.1 Chpt.2, p. 20.
  • All geologic history is full of the beginning and the ends of species–of their first and last days; but it exhibits no genealogies of development.
A fault in the Grands Causses as seen from Bédarieux, France. - A geologist is a [Geological] [[w:Fault (geology)}fault]]-finder. - Bob Phillips.
  • An ice age here, million years of mountain-building there. Geology is the study of pressure and time. That's all it takes really, pressure, and time.
  • All that comes above the surface [of the globe] lies within the province of Geography; all that comes below that surface lies inside the realm of Geology. The surface of the earth is that which, so to speak, divides them and at the same time 'binds them together in indissoluble union.' We may, perhaps, put the case metaphorically. The relationships of the two are rather like that of man and wife. Geography, like a prudent woman, has followed the sage advice of Shakespeare and taken unto her 'an elder than herself; but she does not trespass on the domain of her consort, nor could she possibly maintain the respect of her children were she to flaunt before the world the assertion that she is 'a woman with a past.'
  • Union of geology with geography, without which the latter science is deprived of its firmest foundation
    • Sir Roderick I in: “The Journal of the Royal Geographical Society: JRGS, Volume 27”, p. cvii.
  • Caves are whimsical things, and geology on a local scale is random and unpredictable.
  • Geology does better in reclothing dry bones and revealing lost creations, than in tracing veins of lead and beds of iron; astronomy better in opening to us the houses of heaven than in teaching navigation; surgery better in investigating organiation than in setting limbs; only it is ordained that, for our encouragement, every step we make in science adds something to its practical applicabilities.
Geological map of North America
  • I always love geology. In winter, particularly, it is pleasant to listen to theories about the great mountains one visited in the summer; or about the Flood or volcanoes; about great catastrophes or about blisters; above all about fossils … Everywhere there are hypotheses, but nowhere truths; many workmen, but no experts; priests, but no God. In these circumstances each man can bring his hypothesis like a candle to a burning altar, and on seeing his candle lit declare ‘Smoke for smoke, sir, mine is better than yours’. It is precisely for this reason that I love geology.
  • Darwin was a biological evolutionist, because he was first a uniformitarian geologist. Biology is pre-eminent to-day among the natural sciences, because its younger sister, Geology, gave it the means.
  • Geologist is the only person who can talk to a woman and use the words ‘dike’, ‘thrust’,’bed’, ‘orogeny’, ‘cleavage’, and ‘subduction’ ihte same sentence without facing a civil suit
    • Unknown, in “Gaither's Dictionary of Scientific Quotations”, p. 863.
  • "We got a course in picknicking at the university," said Dr. Bourbon. "It's called Geology, but it's really picknicking."

The Scientific Character of Geology[edit]

Reinout Willem van Bemmelen in: The Scientific Character of Geology, Source: The Journal of Geology, Vol. 69, No. 4 (Jul., 1961), pp. 453-463, The University of Chicago Press, 8 January 2010

  • Geology differs from physics, chemistry, and biology in that the possibilities for experiment are limited. As geology is essentially a historical science, the working method of the geologist resembles that of the historian. This makes the personality of the geologist of essential importance in the way he analyzes the past. This subjective element in geologic studies accounts for two characteristic types that can be distinguished among geologists: one considering geology as a creative art, the other regarding geology as an exact science.
    • In: p. 453.
  • The increasing number of factors playing a role in the various complexes of natural phenomena are the origin of new, so-called emergent, laws and characteristics. Based on this principle of emergence, a hierarchy of sciences can be distinguished: physics-chemistry-geology-biology-psychology.
    • In: p. 453
The principle of "uniformitarianism" and the method of "comparative ontology" are examples of geologic rules -Reinout Willem van Bemmel.
  • The principle of "uniformitarianism" and the method of "comparative ontology" are examples of geologic rules.
    • In: p. 453.
  • Geology is part of that remarkable dynamic process of the human mind which is generally called science and to which man is driven by an inquisitive urge. By noticing relationships in the results of his observations, he attempts to order and to explain the infinite variety of phenomena that at first sight may appear to be chaotic.
    • In: p. 454.
  • Experiments in geology are far more difficult than in physics and chemistry because of the greater size of the objects, commonly outside our laboratories, up to the earth itself, and also because of the fact that the geologic time scale exceeds the human time scale by a million and more times. This difference in time allows only direct observations of the actual geologic processes, the mind having to imagine what could possibly have happened in the past.
    • M. King Hubbert (1937) in "Theory of Scale models applied to the study of Geologic structures", Geological Society of America, quoted in: p. 455-56.
  • In collecting the primary geologic data, some personal capacities of the geologist (such as strong physique, perceptive faculties, perseverance, talent for drawing) are generally of much greater importance than in any of the sister sciences, which can rely on the quality of the instruments used in collecting primary data… Hans Cloos (1949) called this way of interrogation [by geologists] "the dialogue with the earth," "das Gespraich mit der Erde."
    • In: p. 456.
  • ...may compare geologists and biologists to barbaric stone-age scientists, who, more or less hopefully, struggle along to reach the remote but ultimate goal of total "quantification" and "mathematization.
    • Wright C.W in "Order and Disorder in Nature, Proceedings of geological Association, Vol 69, p,77-82 (1958) quoted in p. 456.
  • Geology is an exact science too. Many factors of geological phenomena can be measured and grouped in "correlation structures," aspects of which can be treated mathematically.
    • In: p. 457.
  • The very nature of the earth determines the place of geology among the sister sciences.
    • In: p. 458.
  • It is quite common in geological jargon to use biological, medical, and even psychological terms, and it would definitely be an impoverishment of geological professional speech if the usage of these terms were abolished. But confusion and misunderstanding are sometimes introduced in this way.
    • In: p. 458.
  • Physics and chemistry provide the natural laws which also hold in geology. Additional to those, however, the geologist works with some general concepts which are the more specific rules of the game for his scientific investigations. These concepts, such as the principle of "uniformitarianism," are his guide in the interpretation of the available facts. Because of the higher complexity of the evolution of the earth, our present basic concepts need still more footing and development than those of physics and chemistry. A repeated to and fro between induction and deduction is necessary.
    • In: p. 459.
  • The geological evolution is a part of the general cosmic evolution which has an orientated course, according to the second main law of thermodynamics. Therefore the principle of uniformitarianism generally holds good for the not too distant past, in the times that life inhabited our planet (that is, for about one billion years).
    • In: p. 459.
  • Geologic phenomena and pathological symptoms are similar insofar that both may have various causes. It is the art of the diagnosing physician to recognize the disease; in the same way the geologist is not allowed to halt at the apparent. Before a sound interpretation is reached, many supplementary investigations and diagnostic observations should be done, perhaps each time starting from a different premise. This is in essence the application of the method of the multiple working hypotheses.
    • In: p. 460.
  • The history of the earth is inseparably linked to that of our planetary system, and the gap between astronomy and geology is being filled by cosmogony.
    • In: p. 461.
  • Applied geology may help to change the fear of atomic energy as a weapon of universal destruction into hope for mankind by applying it for new strategies to master the needs of raw materials in our industrial era.
    • In: p. 463.

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