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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/566

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

and therefore by great changes in climate. (3) By great and widespread changes in organic forms, produced partly by the physical changes and partly by the extensive migrations. (4) By the evolution of new dominant types, which are also the cause of extensive changes in species. (5) Among the physical changes occurring at these times is the formation of great mountain ranges. The names of these critical periods or revolutions are often taken from the mountain range which form their most conspicuous features.

There have been at least four of these critical periods, or periods of greatest change: (1) The pre-Cambrian or Laurentide revolution; (2) the post-Paleozoic or Appalachian; (3) the post-Cretaceous or Rocky Mountain; (4) the post-Tertiary or glacial revolution.

Now, as these critical periods separate the primary divisions of time—the eras—it follows that the Present—the Age of Man—is an era. It may be called the Psychozoic Era. These views have been mainly advocated by the writer of this sketch, but I believe that, with perhaps some modification in statement, they would be accepted by most geologists as a permanent acquisition of science[1].

 

GEOLOGICAL CLIMATES.

Attention was first drawn to this subject by the apparently unique phenomena of the Glacial epoch.

For nearly a century past Alpine glaciers, their structure, their mysterious motion, and their characteristic erosive effects, have excited the keenest interest of scientific men. But until about 1840 the interest was purely physical. It was Louis Agassiz who first recognized ice as a great geological agent. He had long been familiar with the characteristic marks of glacial action, and with the fact that Alpine glaciers were far more extensive formerly than now, and had, moreover, conceived the idea of a Glacial epoch—an ice age in the history of the earth. With this idea in his mind, in 1840 he visited England, and found the marks of glaciers all over the higher regions of England and Scotland. He boldly announced that the whole of northern Europe was once covered with a universal ice sheet. A few years later he came to the United States, and found the tracks of glaciers everywhere, and again astonished the world by asserting that the whole, northern part of the North American continent was modeled by a moving ice sheet. This idea has been confirmed by all subsequent investigation, especially here in America.


  1. Critical Periods, etc., American Journal of Science, vol. xiv, p. 99, 1877; Bulletin of the Geological Department of the University of California, vol. i, No. 11, 1895.