The Earth

An Intimate History
Richard Fortey
Introduced by the author

In his 'intimate history', Richard Fortey unlocks the geological secrets of the Earth – its origin and the constant processes that destroy and create it. His aim is to unite the natural and human history of particular places with the geological realities that underlie them.

In the vast scale of geological time, the whole history of man is no more than the blink of an eye. The discovery of that fact – uncomfortable as it may have made humans feel – was key to much of modern science, from Darwin’s theory of evolution to predicting volcanic eruptions or the age of the Earth. As the pioneers of geology in the 18th and 19th centuries refined their understanding, suddenly the landscape appeared in a new light. Whole continents had changed shape and rearranged themselves; the hills of Scotland were the eroded remains of mountains; the Himalayas revealed themselves as youthful, growing ranges; cliffs, ridges and even islands had been formed from the calcified remains of dead sea creatures; the sea-floor itself was constantly being recreated as lava welled up and cooled.

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