Wednesday, May 03, 2006

bursting the limits of time: new book of interest to Mason & Dixon readers

Rudwick, Martin J. S. Bursting the Limits of Time: The Reconstruction of Geohistory in the Age of Revolution. Published with the support of the Getty Grant Program. 840 p., 145 halftones, 34 line drawings. 7 x 10 2005 Cloth $45.00 spec 0-226-73111-1 Spring 2005

In 1650, Archbishop James Ussher of Armagh joined the long-running theological debate on the age of the earth by famously announcing that creation had occurred on October 23, 4004 B.C. Although widely challenged during the Enlightenment, this belief in a six-thousand-year-old planet was only laid to rest during a revolution of discovery in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In this relatively brief period, geologists reconstructed the immensely long history of the earth-and the relatively recent arrival of human life. Highlighting a discovery that radically altered existing perceptions of a human's place in the universe as much as the theories of Copernicus, Darwin, and Freud did, Bursting the Limits of Time is a herculean effort by one of the world's foremost experts on the history of geology and paleontology to sketch this historicization of the natural world in the age of revolution.

Addressing this intellectual revolution for the first time, Rudwick examines the ideas and practices of earth scientists throughout the Western world to show how the story of what we now call "deep time" was pieced together. He explores who was responsible for the discovery of the earth's history, refutes the concept of a rift between science and religion in dating the earth, and details how the study of the history of the earth helped define a new branch of science called geology. Rooting his analysis in a detailed study of primary sources, Rudwick emphasizes the lasting importance of field- and museum-based research of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Bursting the Limits of Time, the culmination of more than three decades of research, is the first detailed account of this monumental phase in the history of science.


List of illustrations
A note on footnotes
Time and geohistory—Historical parameters—Historicizing the earth—Text and illustrations—Maps of knowledge

Part one: Understanding the earth

1. Naturalists, philosophers, and others
1.1 A savant on top of the world
First ascents of Mont Blanc—Science on the summit—Return to civilization—Conclusion
1.2 The Republic of Letters and its supporters
Savants, professional and amateur—The Republic of Letters—A variety of supporters—Conclusion
1.3 Places of natural knowledge
Laboratories and museums—Savants in the field—The social life of savants—Scientific publication—Conclusion
1.4 Maps of natural knowledge
The literary and the philosophical—Natural history and natural philosophy—Philosophy and theology—Conclusion

2. Sciences of the earth
2.1 Mineralogy as a science of specimens
Minerals and other fossils—Identification and classification—Fossils of organic origin—Fossil localities—Prize specimens—Conclusion
2.2 Physical geography as a spatial science
Huge solid facts—The primacy of fieldwork—Proxy pictures—Maps as instruments—Conclusion
2.3 Geognosy as a structural science
-stops: -.5in 0in .5in"The mining context—Structures and sequences—Primaries and Secondaries—Sequences of Gebirge—Fossils in geognosy—Conclusion
2.4 Earth physics as a causal science
The “physics” of specimens—The “physics” of physical geography—The “physics” of geognostic structures—The “physics” of rock formations—Conclusion
2.5 The question of time
The short timescale versus eternalism—Volcanoes, valleys, and strata—Estimates of the timescale—Encounters with theologians—Conclusion

3. The theory of the earth
3.1 Geotheory as a scientific genre
The meaning of “geology”—The goals of geotheory—Conclusion
3.2 Buffon’s cooling globe
Buffon’s first geotheory—Nature’s epochs—The earth’s timescale—Conclusion
3.3 De Luc’s worlds ancient and modern
The “Christian philosophe”—De Luc’s binary system—Natural measures of time—Conclusion
3.4 Hutton’s eternal earth machine
A deistic geotheory—Cyclic processes—A theory confirmed by fieldwork—Time and eternity—Conclusion
3.5 The standard model of falling sea levels
The multiplicity of geotheories—Neptunist geotheory—Conclusion

4. Transposing history into the earth
4.1 The varieties of history
The diversification of history—Chronology and biblical history—Chorographers and antiquarians—Herculaneum and Pompeii—Conclusion
4.2 Fossils as nature’s documents
Human history and its natural records—The natural history of fossils—Fossils and the earth’s revolutions—Conclusion
4.3 Volcanoes and nature’s epochs
The making of a physical geographer—The volcanoes of Auvergne—Epochs of volcanic activity—A lake on the site of Paris—Conclusion
4.4 Rock formations as nature’s archives
The volcanoes of Vivarais—Nature’s erudite historian—Censors and critics—Exporting geohistory to Russia—Conclusion
4.5 Global geohistory
Causal processes and geotheories—The place of contingency—Saussure as a geotheorist—De Luc as a geohistorian—Conclusion

5. Problems with fossils

5.1 The ancient world of nature
The deep past as a foreign country?—Fossils and geohistory—Migration and transmutation—Conclusion
5.2 Relics of former seas
Vanished shellfish—Living fossils—Fossil fish and possible whales—Explaining the former world—Conclusion
5.3 Witnesses of former continents
Fossil plants—Large fossil bones—The “Ohio animal”—Giant elks and bears—Conclusion
5.4 The antiquity of man
Humans in geohistory—Texts and bones—History from artifacts—Conclusion

Interlude: From survey to narrative

Part two: Reconstructing geohistory

6. A new science of “geology”?
6.1 Revolutions in nature and society (1789–91)
Meanings of revolution—Blumenbach’s “total revolution”—Montlosier’s continuous revolution—Geotheory as a flourishing genre—Conclusion
6.2 Geotheory as geohistory (1790–93)
De Luc’s new system—A differentiated “former world”—The role of fossil evidence—A critique of Hutton—Conclusion
6.3 Theorizing in a time of trouble (1793–94)
Geotheories and focal problems—Dolomieu’s mega-tsunamis—Dolomieu on the Nile delta—The sciences under the Terror—Conclusion
6.4 Geotheory politicized (1793–95)
De Luc and Blumenbach—Cultured despisers of religion—The politics of Genesis—Conclusion
6.5 “Geology” redefined (1794–97)
The sciences after Thermidor—Desmarest’s survey of geotheories—La M├ętherie’s geotheory—Saussure’s Agenda—Dolomieu on “geology”—Conclusion

7. Denizens of a former world
7.1 A mushroom in the field of savants (1794–96)
Fossil bones as a focal problem—The young Cuvier—The megatherium—The mammoth—Conclusion
7.2 Cuvier opens his campaign (1797–99)
Cave bears and fossil rhinos—Dolomieu and de Luc as Cuvier’s allies—Cuvier’s research program—Hostile critics—Jefferson’s megalonix—Conclusion
7.3 The Napoleon of fossil bones (1798–1800)
Savants in wartime—Cuvier and the First Consul—Cuvier’s network of informants—Cuvier’s international appeal—Conclusion
7.4 Lamarck’s alternative (1800–1802)
The threat of transformism—The response to Cuvier’s appeal—Mummified animals from Egypt—Lamarck’s Parisian fossils—Conclusion
7.5 Enlarging a fossil menagerie (1802–4)
A peaceful interlude—A cumulative case for extinction—Earlier and stranger mammals—Conclusion

8. Geognosy enriched into geohistory

P chooses cover artist for new Gravity's Rainbow

From: "Erik T. Burns"
Subject: Miller/Pynchon in Variety Magazine
Date: Wed, 3 May 2006 14:52:20 +0100

Miller time; News Brief
Steven Zeitchik
30 April 2006
Daily Variety

A9 2006, Variety, Reed Business Information, a division of Reed
Elsevier, Inc
When he's not writing new graphic novels for Hollywood to snap up, "Sin
City" creator Frank Miller has an unusual sideline: drawing for Thomas

Penguin Classics was redesigning its line of influential novels and
asked Pynchon if he'd like a new jacket for his novel "Gravity's
Rainbow." At first Pynchon resisted, says publicist Caroline Farrington.
But he came back and said he'd allow it, on one condition: if Miller did
the design.

Miller, at work on the Weinstein Co.'s "Sin City 2," agreed. A new
edition of the tome will be released in October.