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Darwin-L Message Log 2:41 (October 1993)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

Note: Additional publications on evolution and the historical sciences by the Darwin-L list owner are available on SSRN.


<2:41>From DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu  Sun Oct 10 11:35:03 1993

Date: Sun, 10 Oct 1993 12:41:59 -0400 (EDT)
From: DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu
Subject: October 10 -- Today in the Historical Sciences
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
Organization: University of NC at Greensboro

OCTOBER 10 -- TODAY IN THE HISTORICAL SCIENCES

1802: HUGH MILLER, author and geologist, is born at Cromarty, Scotland.
Apprenticed to a stonemason as a young man, Miller made several important
geological discoveries, including finding in the Old Red Sandstone the
earliest fossil vertebrates that were then known.  His greatest distinction,
however, came as a popularizer of the geological research of his day: in vivid
and powerful prose, Miller made known to a wide audience the lost worlds of
the past and the depth of geological time.  In one of his best-known works
Miller describes a scenic view of the Bay of Cromarty, and then asks his
readers to "survey the landscape a second time; -- not merely in its pictorial
aspect, not as connected with the commoner associations which link it to its
present inhabitants, but as _antiquaries of the world_, -- as students of
those wonderful monuments of nature, on which she has traced her heiro-
glyphical inscriptions of plants and animals that impart to us the history,
not of a former age, but of a former creation.  Geology is the most poetical
of all sciences; and its various facts, as they present themsleves to the
human mind, possess a more overpowering immensity than even those of Astronomy
itself.  For while the Astronomer can carry about with him in his imagination,
a little portable Orrery of the whole solar system, the Geologist is oppressed
by a weight of rocks and mountains, and of strata piled over strata which all
his diligence in forming theories, has not yet enabled him completely to
arrange.  He is no mere intellectual mechanician, who calculates and reasons
on the movements of a piece of natural clockwork; the objects with which he is
chiefly conversant, have no ascertained forms, or known proportions, that he
may conceive of them as abstract figures, or substitute a set of models in
their places; his province, in at least all its outer skirts, is still a
_terra incognita_, which he cannot conceive of as a whole; and the walks which
intersect it are so involved and irregular that, like those of an artificial
wilderness, they seem to double its extent.  The operations of his latest
eras, as his science exists in time, terminate long before history begins;
while, as it exists in space, he has to grapple with the immense globe itself,
with all its oceans, and all its continents.  Goethe finely remarks, that the
ideas and feelings of the schoolboy who tells his fellows that the world is
round, are widely different in depth and sublimity from those experienced by
the wanderer of Ithaca, when he spoke of the unlimited earth, and the
unmeasurable and infinite sea."  (_Scenes and Legends of the North of
Scotland, or the Traditional History of Cromarty_.  Edinburgh: Adam and
Charles Black, 1835.  Pp. 48-49.)

Today in the Historical Sciences is a feature of Darwin-L@ukanaix.cc.
ukans.edu, a network discussion group on the history and theory of the
historical sciences.  E-mail darwin@iris.uncg.edu for more information.

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