, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 575-578
Date: 30 Nov 2011

Laboratory work in early geoscience: changing the story

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The general inaccessibility of the Earth’s mineral-forming processes has long confounded our desire to know about the generation of rocks and minerals. And when modern experimental petrology can still seem like a struggle, we might marvel at the considerable disadvantages faced by workers attempting to understand the formation of rocks and minerals two and three hundred years ago. Naturally, the questions of today differ greatly from those of the past. Indeed, the questions of the past were to a large extent foundational issues, and the struggle was thus a double one: ‘Mineralists’ had to answer the questions about the compositions and generation of rocks and minerals while at the same time developing techniques for doing so. The reviewed book tells this story by charting the history of deliberate experimentation in understanding earth processes. The author, Sally Newcomb, begins her analysis around the mid-eighteenth century, though mention is made of earlier times throughout the text ...