My thoughts are driven by a few articles I read in Geo-Alp, a yearly journal published by the University of Innsbruck and the Natural History Museum of South Tyrol in Bozen, Italy. I wish I could read and speak German, however the journal publishes some articles in both English and German, much to my personal frustration (I chose the option of learning Visual Basic, some Action Script, and CSS instead of a foreign language). My first introduction to the idea that geology existed outside the confines of the traditional players occurred while I was a TA for Historical Geology and Stephen Rowland mentioned a name I'd never heard of: Mikhail Vasilyevich Lomonosov. Huh? Wegner wasn't the only person toying with the idea of Continental Drift? Why hadn't anyone mentioned that before? And thus, my interest in the history of geology as a science began. So, as I started, I shouldn't have been surprised to read about Otto Ampferer (1875-1947) or Giovanni Arduino (1714-1795).
Herr Otto also contemplated the modern concepts of Continental Drift and Sea Floor Spreading while mapping the Northern Calcareous Alps. In addition to describing overthrusting and nappes, he envisions something he called aufsteigende Unterströmung - or rising currents that "break through the continental masses and drives them apart" (Krainer and Hauser, 2007). And he penned an article titled "Thoughts About the Geodynamics of the Atlantic Space" in 1941. So Otto was post-Wegner, but he described the possibility of a mechanism that we now generally credit to much later workers. I'd never heard of him... After rummaging around online, I found some references to more recent texts (Şengör, 2003 and Foulgar, 2005), and I have to admit I'm not likely to pick either of these up for pleasure reading.
I had at least heard of Arduino before because I purchased The Origins of Geology in Italy prior to leaving for the semester (still working my way through it). I hadn't read Vaccari's article though, so I hadn't seen Arduino's lithostratigraphic theory, which I'm assuming was influenced by Werner's Vonden äusserlichen Kennzeichen der Fossilien (On the External Characters of Fossils, or of Minerals) in 1774, who was influenced by Johann Gottlob Lehmann (1719-1767). Yet, when I visited the Kansas Geological Survey, they claim Arduino first proposed the idea of Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary. I wish I had a scanner so I could share a simplified version of Arduino's classificiation, but it's very similar to Werner's. Here's a complicated hard to read one from here:
So I guess the point in my rambling, the question I've been asking myself, is how many Lomonosov's and Ampferer's don't I (we?) know about because of the Western bias in our education system? Were there no Romanian, Chilean, Japanese, etc., geologists that pre-dated the "known suspsects?" I guess we know of lots of these folks, they are showing up in specialized textbooks and special bulletins, but I'm guessing most of us don't have the spare time to explore all the other areas we probably enjoyed as undergraduates, but didn't happen to specialize in (e.g. - I'm really intrigued by ophiolites but I'm probably not going to pick up a special paper on them!). To soothe my intellectual fumbling, I just ordered "Thinking about Earth: A History of Ideas in Geology" - but even 1996 feels outdated. Perhaps a sabbatical project?
Postscript: As I was looking around for information on Otto Ampferer, I stumbled across this image in Şengör,'s book:
There is a high-resolution version here. If you know where I can order a poster of this beautiful piece of artwork let me know. Thanks!