Geological Time: History of Ideas

Abstract

Early estimates of the Earth's age were restricted by literal interpretations of Genesis, but the geological time scale had been greatly extended by the early nineteenth century. The development of stratigraphy encouraged the belief that the Earth's history included a sequence of distinct periods stretching back to a period long before the appearance of humankind. Calculations by nineteenth‐century physicists imposed a limit of at most 100 million years on estimates of the Earth's age, and most geologists accepted this limit. It was only after the discovery of radioactivity that it became possible both to extend the scale of geological time and to develop techniques for providing exact dates.

Keywords: chronology; geochronology; earth; age of; radioactive dating

Further Reading

Burchfield JD (1975) Lord Kelvin and the Age of the Earth. New York: Science History Publications.

Dalrymple GB (1991) The Age of the Earth. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Haber FC (1959) The Age of the World: Moses to Darwin. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Lewis C (2000) The Dating Game: One Man's Search for the Age of the Earth. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Rossi P (1984) The Dark Abyss of Time: The History of the Earth and the History of Nations from Hooke to Vico. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Rudwick MJS (2005) Bursting the Limits of Time: The Reconstruction of Geohistory in the Age of Revolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Rudwick MJS (2008) Worlds before Adam: The Reconstruction of Geohistory in the Age of Reform. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Toulmin S and Goodfield J (1964) The Discovery of Time. New York: Harper and Row.

Wyse‐Jackson P (2006) The Chronologers’ Quest: The Search for the Age of the Earth. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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How to Cite close
Bowler, Peter J(Nov 2010) Geological Time: History of Ideas. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0001515.pub2]