JF Ptak Science Books Post 2442
Continuing my exploration of the Borgesianly Unchartable Lands of Serendipitonia comes this fine relic from the days of Biblical Geology. That is to say, the Good Old days, the antiquarian days, the pre-Evolutionary days of Diluvial geology, of a geology accommodating the Bible--in this case, the event of the great flood of the Old Testament, Genesis 6-8.
I happened on this by picking up random volume of Thompson's Annals of Philosophy, and opening it to the contents, and see what jumped to attention. The very first article to do so was Charles Wheatstone and a piece he did on sound. This was the volume for 1823, and it seemed really early for Wheatstone--and it was. He wrote it at 21, his first published paper and the first of many to come. But I wanted something different, and so long as I stayed with the selected volume I wouldn't break any rules of serendipity in finding something to write a short post about.
A quick scan down the page, and I found/stumbled onto something to work with--J.S. Henslow's paper on the geology of the Deluge.
Henslow was a big deal and a fine thinker, and organizer, and categorizer, and theoretician. He was also a very effective teacher, and Parson, and was an essential element of his community.
He was also perhaps the most essential person in the development of the scientific interests of Charles Darwin--and Darwin says so.1 Henslow would have Darwin as a student about five years after this publication, and it was Henslow who became Darwin's mentor. Also it was Henslow who secured Darwin a spot on the Beagle. And it was Henslow who received Darwin's notes and samples and who helped create Darwin's reputation on his return from the long voyage. And so on.
But here in 1823 Henslow was trying to make science work with Genesis. He wondered--as had many--where all of this water was coming from in the first place, and reasoned that the water had to come from something other than the Earth (as he reasons that another 5 miles of water would be necessary to drown the Earth) and so quotes scripture to show that God provided for it. (I figure that you'd need about 750,000,000 Niagara Falls running for a month to get the necessary water...) That, and a close swing-by by a comet caused major tidal disruption. And the water had to go somewhere to recede, and since there was already a lot of water on the Earth the divine waters needed to recede unseen inside of the Earth. In any event, my takeaway was that Henslow couldn't find a geological explanation for the Deluge or the evidence of one, which is interesting in itself, and so had to provide scriptural support.
The forever-busy Athanasius Kircher made this post-flood reconsideration of the Earth, Geographia Conjecturalis de Orbis Terrestris Post Diluvium3, published in Amsterdam in 1675. Source: Getty Museum, here.]
1. Charles Darwin to J.D. Hooker, May 18, 1861. Source: http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/entry-3152
"My dear Hooker
I was very glad to hear that poor dear Henslow is at rest.I fully believe a better man never walked this earth. What a loss he will be to his parish! I can well believe how you will miss him. I well remember his saying before you married that if he could have picked out anyone for his son-in-law, it would have been you.— How kind he was to me as an undergraduate constantly asking me to his House & taking me long walks. I am thankful to think that at the time I fully enjoyed & appreciated his kindness..."
2. In 1823 Henslow wrote about The Flood, and attempted to direct the science to fit the belief. (In 1823 a major work in this area was published by Buckland on the relics of the Flood, Reliquiae Diluvianae; or, Observations on the Organic Remains Contained in Caves, Fissures, and Diluvial Gravel and on Other Geological Phenomena Attesting the Action of an Universal Deluge.
3. Geographia conjecturalis de orbis terrestris post diluvium [Athanasii Kircheri è Soc. Jesu Arca Noë, in tres libros digesta : quorum I, De rebus quae ante diluvium : II, De iis, quae ipso diluvio ejusque duratione : III, De iis, quae post diluvium a Noëmo gesta sunt : quae omnia novâ methodo, nec non summa argumentorum varietate, explicantur and demonstrantur] , Engraving , 1675 , Kircher, Athanasius, 1602-1680