Get to know a founding father of geology at Jan. 8 talk at Portland State

Coming up Jan. 8 is your chance to learn about geology’s founding father.

“Who? James Hutton?”

No. He’s considered the founding father of modern geology.

“Oh, you mean, William Smith.”

No, no. However, some call him the father of English geology.

“Wait! Is it Charles Lyell or Alfred Wegener?”

No, no, no. Guys, come on. Lyell’s the guy who ran around, looking at evidence of gradual geological processes such as sea level change, vulcanism, earthquakes, and wind and water erosion and said: “Hey, I think Earth is really old, yo, and there are these uniform processes of change.” And then he told his friend, Charles Darwin about it … (*Insert sound of rimshot here.*)

As for Wegener, he’s the dude who came up with the theory of continental drift, which got pooh-poohed in his lifetime by his peers but which later would be subsumed into modern plate tectonics theory. (*Insert meme about victory here, for good ol’ Alfred.*)

No, I’m talking about Nicholas Steno.

“Who?!”

Yeah, I know, those other guys seem to get more attention in basic college geology courses, but Steno, who is also called one of the founders of modern stratigraphy and modern geology, is really important, too.

Thanks to Nicholas Steno we see fossils as the remains of once-living organisms. Whereas fossilized fish are shown here, they're not far off from what inspired Steno's leap of ingenuity: fossilized shark teeth. (From The New York Public Library's public domain collection; artist, Thomas Moran, 1837-1926, lithograph)

Thanks to Nicholas Steno we see fossils as what they are: the remains of once-living organisms. Whereas fossilized fish are shown here, they’re not far off from what inspired Steno’s leap of ingenuity: fossilized shark teeth. (From The New York Public Library’s public domain collection; artist, Thomas Moran, 1837-1926, lithograph)

He’s the guy who kick-started paleontology and the concept that fossils represented once-living organisms. (And because my own childhood fascination with hominid fossils shaped my interest in science, I probably owe Steno a big high-five of thanks. *And insert helpful video on high-fiving etiquette here.*)

To learn more about this pillar of geology, check out the Jan. 8 talk on Steno by Kyle Dittmer, a member of the Geological Society of the Oregon Country and an instructor at Portland Community College’s Southeast Campus, from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. in Portland State University’s Cramer Hall, 1721 S.W. Broadway.

Prior to the talk, you can join GSOC members for some grub and conversation at 6 p.m. at Pizzicato Pizza, 1708 S.W. Sixth Ave., across from the PSU Campus Rec Center.

And a parking note: It’s free in PSU’s Parking Structure 2 after 5 p.m. on Friday nights. The structure’s located on Broadway, across from Cramer Hall. Another free-after-5 option is the university’s Parking Structure 1, bounded by Broadway, Sixth, and Harrison and Hall streets.

For more information, check out the event’s web page.

Susannah L. Bodman
Twitter: @Sciwhat
Facebook: Sciwhat.Science

 

 

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