Encyclopedia of Scientific Dating Methods

Living Edition
| Editors: W. Jack Rink, Jeroen Thompson

Historical Development (of Dating Methods)

  • James M. Mattinson
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-6326-5_56-3



H. S. Williams (1893) originally proposed the term “geochronology” for the study of the time scale of geological events. Williams coined the term just 3 years prior to the discovery of radioactivity, at a time when science-based estimates for the age of the Earth and the age of major geologic events were derived from various physical and chemical models, and a range of geologic observations and measurements. The discovery of radioactivity in 1896 by the French physicist, Henri Becquerel, led to the development of dating methods primarily based on the decay of long-lived, naturally occurring radioactive “parent isotopes” to stable “daughter isotopes.” In modern usage, “geochronology” is used more or less exclusively to refer to dating geological materials using methods based on radioactive decay.


To quote Frank Richter’s paper on “Kelvin and the age of the...


Isotopic Composition General Reference Radioactive Decay Photographic Plate Radiogenic Heat Production 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Earth ScienceUniversity of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA