This keynote lecture will accompany the exhibit “In Search of Lost Time”, at the Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Marcia Bjornerud is a Professor of Geosciences at Lawrence University and author of Timefulness: How Thinking Like a Geologist Can Help Save the World, and Reading the Rocks: The Autobiography of the Earth.
Please join us in-person at the RBML (masks required,) or tune in virtually by using the following zoom link: https://illinois.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_k66SKv8QSWiwyth40vmdng
Developing and calibrating the geologic timescale — reconstructing Earth’s past from the raw rock record — is one of humanity’s greatest, but least appreciated, intellectual achievements.
No solitary genius can be credited with creating the timescale; instead, it has taken shape through the collective work of geologists from around the world over the last two centuries. ‘Mapping’ deep time has required a great variety of minds: farsighted thinkers, detail-oriented fossil collectors, polymaths trained in multiple scientific disciplines, fastidious lab technicians, and legions of hardy field geologists. The exploration of the geologic past got off to a glorious start in the late 18th and early 19th century with visionaries like James Hutton, Charles Lyell, and Charles Darwin, but was then hampered by challenges from both the Church and the pre-eminent scientist of the day, Lord Kelvin. In addition, the task of sampling, describing, naming and cataloguing all the minerals, rocks, fossils and stratigraphic units that tell Earth’s story turned out to be more enormous than early thinkers ever imagined. It is only in recent decades that geologists have had the technological tools needed to decipher the earliest chapters in Earth’s history – and the conceptual frameworks to envision the geologic future.