Biology, History, History and Philosophy of Science, Reviews

Review: Rudwick, Bursting the Limits of Time

jacket imageNature features a nice review of Martin J. S. Rudwick’s Bursting the Limits of Time: The Reconstruction of Geohistory in the Age of Revolution. From the review by Stephen Moorbath: "Bursting the Limits of Time is a massive work and is quite simply a masterpiece of science history.… Rudwick’s text is beautifully written and grips the attention throughout.… The book should be obligatory for every geology and history-of-science library, and is a highly recommended companion for every civilized geologist who can carry an extra 2.4 kg in his rucksack.… Rudwick has amply fulfilled his stated aim of describing the injection of history into a science that had been primarily descriptive or causal. Indeed, thanks to Rudwick and his kind, we may rest assured that the future of the history of science is in safe hands."
Bursting the Limits of Time is the culmination of a lifetime of study by Martin J. S. Rudwick, the world’s leading historian of geology and paleontology. In 1650, Archbishop James Ussher of Armagh joined the long-running theological debate on the age of the earth by famously announcing that creation had occurred on October 23, 4004 B.C. Although widely challenged during the Enlightenment, this belief in a six-thousand-year-old planet was only laid to rest during a revolution of discovery in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In this relatively brief period, geologists reconstructed the immensely long history of the earth—and the relatively recent arrival of human life. Highlighting a discovery that radically altered existing perceptions of a human’s place in the universe as much as the theories of Copernicus, Darwin, and Freud did, Bursting the Limits of Time is Rudwick’s herculean effort to sketch this historicization of the natural world in the age of revolution.