非文學類(歷史)
更新日期:
2017-05-17
Reading the Rocks: How Victorian Geologists Discovered the Secret of Life
Brenda Maddox
Bloomsbury Publshing
June 2017
272pp
書籍編號:
03-9669
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● 內文簡介

A rich and exuberant group biography of the first geologists, the people who were first to excavate from the layers of the world its buried history.

Why are kangaroos found only in Australia? What created the Niagara Falls? Why did horses have to be introduced to the Americas? How were volcanoes created? Why are the rock formations of the Alps so twisted? Did the Biblical Flood really happen?

These were the kinds of far-reaching questions that a 19th century club of gentlemen scientists set themselves the task of answering – and their ground-breaking discoveries shaped the way we understand the world today. Based in a gas lit debating chamber by the River Thames, members of the Geological Society would roam the world to gather fossils, bones and rocks as evidence for their theories. With technological advances opening up the possibilities of science to the masses, geology quickly became the most popular and dynamic of the new sciences, and the Society’s findings were delivered to an eager public.

But the Geological Society found itself at the centre of an intense debate that rocked society to its core. If a geologist could prove that the world was formed billions of years before human life emerged, then a man could deny the hand of God in creating the world. For some members of the Society, these geological revelations would enable them to develop yet more radical theories – Charles Darwin based his theory of evolution on the geological work done by his mentor Charles Lyell. But for others, including Lyell, the full implications of their work were a profoundly frightening prospect. Although he gave Darwin his public support and recognised his own role as the ‘missing link’ in the younger man’s research, Lyell was nonetheless a reluctant evolutionist who would struggle for the rest of his life to reconcile himself to the damage done to his religious beliefs.

READING THE ROCKS tells the compelling story of Lyell, Darwin, and the other key geologists of the era: men who first learned how to read the layers of rock and mud to tell a new history of the world, and who in doing so precipitated a severe crisis of faith and had as wide an impact as the ideas of Copernicus and Freud.

 

● 作者簡介

Born and brought up in Massachusetts and with a degree in English literature from Harvard, Brenda Maddox is a long-time resident of the UK. For many years she was Home Affairs Editor of The Economist. She is now a biographer of international repute. NORA: THE LIFE OF MRS JAMES JOYCE was translated into eight languages, was awarded the Los Angeles Times Prize for Biography, and was shortlisted for the Whitbread Biography Award. THE MARRIED MAN: A LIFE OF D.H. LAWRENCE won the Whitbread. GEORGE'S GHOSTS: A NEW LIFE OF W B YEATS was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and ROSALIND FRANKLIN: THE DARK LADY OF DNA won the English-Speaking Union’s Marsh Biography Prize for 2002–3. Her last book, a biography of Ernest Jones, the biographer of Freud, was published in 2007 by John Murray. She is currently working on a book about the Geological Society.

Brenda was married to Sir John Maddox, Editor Emeritus of Nature,who died in 2010, and has two children and two step-children.

 

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