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Story of the Earth in 25 Rocks: Tales of Important Geological Puzzles and the People Who Solved Them

by Donald Prothero Columbia University Press
Pub Date:
Hbk 368 pages
AU$69.00 NZ$72.17
Product Status: Available in Approx 7 days
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Every rock is a tangible trace of the earth’s past. In The Story of the Earth in 25 Rocks, Donald R. Prothero tells the fascinating stories behind the discoveries that shook the foundations of geology. In twenty-five chapters - each about a particular rock, outcrop, or geologic phenomenon - Prothero recounts the scientific detective work that took us from the unearthing of exemplary specimens to tectonic shifts in how we view our planet and history. Prothero follows in the footsteps of the scientists who asked - and answered - geology’s biggest questions: How do we know how old the earth is? What happened to the supercontinent Pangea? How did ocean rocks end up at the top of Mount Everest? What can we learn about our planet from meteorites and moon rocks?


The Story of the Earth in 25 Rocks answers these questions through expertly chosen case studies, such as Pliny the Elder’s firsthand account of the eruption of Vesuvius; the granite outcrops that led a Scottish scientist to theorize that the landscapes he witnessed were far older than Noah’s Flood; the gypsum deposits under the Mediterranean Sea that indicate that it was once a desert; and how trying to date the age of meteorites revealed the dangers of lead poisoning. Each of these breakthroughs filled in a piece of the puzzle that is the earth, with scientific discoveries dovetailing with each other to offer increasingly solid evidence of the geologic past. Summarizing a wealth of information in an entertaining, approachable style, The Story of the Earth in 25 Rocks is essential reading for the armchair geologist, the rock hound, and all who are curious about the earth beneath their feet.

1. Volcanic Tuff: Vulcan's Wrath: The Eruption of Vesuvius
2. Native Copper: The Iceman and the Island of Copper
3. Cassiterite: The "Isles of Tin" and the Bronze Age
4. Angular Unconformity: "No Vestige of a Beginning": The Immensity of Geologic Time
5. Igneous Dikes: The "Earth's Great Heat Engine": The Origin of Magmas
6. Coal: The Rock That Burns Fires the Industrial Revolution
7. Jurassic World: The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Rocks of Britain
8. Radioactive Uranium: Clocks in Rocks: Arthur Holmes and the Age of the Earth
9. Chondritic Meteorites: Messengers From Space: The Origin of the Solar System
10. Iron-Nickel Meteorites: The Cores of Other Planets
11. Moon Rocks: Green Cheese or Anorthosite: The Origin of the Moon
12. Zircons: Early Oceans and Life? Evidence in a Grain of Sand
13. Stromatolites: Microbial Condos: Cyanobacteria and the Oldest Life
14. Banded Iron Formation: Mountains of Iron: The Earth's Early Atmosphere
15. Turbidites: Archean Sediments and Submarine Landslides
16. Diamictites: Tropical Glaciers and the Snowball Earth
17. Exotic Terranes: Paradox in Rocks: Wandering Fossils and Traveling Landmasses
18. Jigsaw-Puzzle Bedrock: Alfred Wegener and Continental Drift
19. Chalk: The Cretaceous Seaway and Greenhouse Planet
20. The Iridium Layer: The Death of the Dinosaurs
21. Lodestones: How Paleomagic Launched Plate Tectonics
22. Blueschists: The Puzzle of Subduction Zones
23. Transform Faults: Earthquake! The San Andreas Fault
24. Messinian Evaporites: The Mediterranean Was a Desert
25. Glacial Erraticts: A Poet, a Professor, a Politician, a Janitor, and the Discovery of the Ice Ages

Geologist Donald Prothero has crafted a rock-solid premise for this delightful book.
Donald R. Prothero is a Research Associate in Vertebrate Paleontology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. He has taught college geology and paleontology for 40 years at institutions such as Columbia University, Vassar College, Knox College, and Pierce College, and currently at Cal Poly Pomona. For 27 years, he was Professor of Geology at Occidental College in Los Angeles and Lecturer in Geobiology at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. He earned his M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. degrees in geological sciences from Columbia University. He is the author of over 300 scientific papers published in leading journals and over 30 titles in geology, paleontology and evolutionary biology.