Not quite a history of geology, Thinking about the Earth is a history of the geological tradition of Western science. Beginning with a discussion of "organic" views of the earth in ancient cultures, David Oldroyd traverses such topics as "mechanical" and "historicist" views of the earth, map-work, chemical analyses of rocks and minerals, geomorphology, experimental petrology, seismology, theories of mountain building, and geochemistry. He brings us back to the idea that the earth may, in a sense, be regarded as a living entity, or at least that life is an essential feature of its behavior.
Oldroyd offers a broad-brush contribution to the history of ideas and theories about the earth, providing a general synthesis of what science-historians have written about the history of the earth sciences. He shows us that ideas about the earth have been changing constantly since the beginnings of geological science in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and indeed that ideas changed much more rapidly after the establishment of this science than in preceding centuries.
Thinking about the Earth does not assume previous knowledge of earth science. What it does require is an openness to the notion that an understanding of what geologists have to tell us today about the earth can be achieved by examining the evolving history of ideas in geology. This book will be of considerable interest to historians of science, historians of ideas, geologists, students of earth science, and general readers as well.