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Earth Sciences

The Origin of Rocks: Nepunists vs Plutonists - An early controversy on the origin of rocks related to the question of Earth’s origin - Viewed from a quarter millennium later, this controversy is often portrayed as a battle between the two eminent scientists and their “schools of thought” - But: scientific controversy should not be primarily a battle between people, but between ideas - However: battle between 2 titanic personalities is easier to report (and to remember) Neptunists: - Rocks we see originated by sedimenting or precipitating out of a primeval ocean - Abraham Werner, Saxonia Plutonists - Rocks we see originated by cooling of molten magma - James Hutton, Scotland 1. The Neptunists o Abraham Cottlob Werner (1749-1817) (Freilberg, Saxonia)  Born in Silesia  Studied law and mining in Frielberg and Leipzig  In 1775 appointed professor at Bergakademie Freilberg  Freilberg (Saxonia) • Silver discovered in 1180 Bergakademie (mining academy) founded in 1765  An inspirational and well-known teacher • “The charm of his manners and his eloquence kindled enthusiasm in the minds of all his pupils, many of whom only intended at first to acquire a slight knowledge of mineralogy; but, when they had once heard him, they devoted themselves to it as the business of their lives. In a few years a small school of mines, before unheard of in Europe, was raised to the rank of a great university, and men already distinguished in science studied the German language and came from the most distant countries to hear the great oracle of geology.” o Charles Lyell on Werner  His classification is linked to theory of their origin/how they formed (Neptunist theory) • 1. (hot, turbulent) primeval ocean • 2. Ocean cooled and calmed; rocks precipitated out • 3. Ocean drained (or was sucked) away produced further sediment • 4. Volcanic activity  Resulting rocks (oldest at bottom) • 4. Volcanic rocks, lava generated by burning of coal; lava and ash, hot springs deposits • 3. “aufgeschwemmte Gebirge” (swept together mountains)
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