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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/447

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A CENTURY OF GEOLOGY I.

of dispute—viz., the recognition of the fact that there was truth on both sides, and they must be combined into a more comprehensive view. The chief difference of opinion still remaining was as to the relative importance of the two agencies, aqueous and igneous. Two great advances took place about the beginning of this century: William Smith, by patient, painstaking field observation and mapping, laid the foundation of stratigraphy; and Cuvier, by his profound and brilliant studies of the wonderful discoveries of extinct mammals in the Eocene basin of Paris, laid the foundations of paleontology. These researches placed in clearer light than ever before the existence of other time-worlds before the present one. William Smith published his tabular view of the British Strata in 1790, but his map was not completed and published until 1815. Cuvier's great work on the Organic Remains of the Paris Basin was published in 1808.

Thus, early in the century the two bases of our science were laid by Smith and Cuvier. We now proceed to touch lightly only the main steps of subsequent growth through the century.

As, in the previous century and the early part of this, the discussion was between the opposite schools of Neptunists and Plutonists, with the final result of reconciliation in a more scientific view which combined these two surface views into a stereoscopic reality, so now the discussions began between catastrophism and uniformitarianism, and ended with a similar final result. Geologists, in the early part of the century, before the study of causes and processes now in operation was generally acknowledged as the only rational basis of a true scientific geology, seeing the frequent unconformities in the geological series and the apparently sudden changes of life forms associated with these unconformities, were naturally led to the conclusion that the whole history of the earth consisted of a series of sudden and violent catastrophes by which the bed of the ocean was suddenly raised and its waters precipitated on the land as a great wave of translation, carrying universal ruin and extermination of all life in its course. Such catastrophes were supposed to be followed by periods of quiet, during which the new earth was repeopled, by direct act of creation, with new forms of life adapted to the new conditions.

This view was in perfect accord with the then accepted doctrine of the supernatural origin and the permanence of species. Species were supposed to have been created at once, out of hand, without natural process, in some place (center of specific origin), spread in all directions as far as physical conditions would allow, but remained unchanged and unchangeable as long as they continued to live or until another universal exterminating catastrophe. Species