Monday, May 29, 2017

The understanding concept of “fossil”

Actual meaning of fossil was still unknown around 2,000 years ago, with most theories as to their origin and uses being connected to superstition and religion.

About AD 400, the Western church stated that fossils were placed in the ground by the devil to tempt people into questioning the literal truth of the Bible. In the middle ages, fossil had come to be used for only those things made of stolen that were dug from the earth and that looked remarkably like living creatures.

Nicholas Steno (1638-1686) was born in Copenhagen, Denmark. In 1660, he moved to Paris and then to Italy to study medicine. He was the first to understand that fossils were the remains of past life that has been deposited with the sediment.
Steno was a student of Galileo’s experimental and mathematical approach to science and focused its studies in human muscular systems. He was an anatomist of spectacular skill at a time, when the inner workings of the human body were still very much terra incognita.

In October 1666, two fishermen caught what was described as “a huge shark” near the town of Livorno, Italy. Because of its enormous size, Duke Ferdinand ordered that its to be sent to Steno for study.

Steno discovered that they were actually fossilized shark’s teeth. Steno published his discovery and supporting evidence in 1669. In addition to proving that fossils came to lie in the middle of rock layers. Through this work he discovered the process of sedimentation and of creating sedimentary rock layers.

More than a century later, the English geologist William Smith (1769-1839) discovered how to identify different strata by the unique kinds of fossils within them, and published the first geological map in 1815.

Using changes in fossils, Smith also identified the Permo-Triassic boundary, a time of enormous extinction of life. The actual process of fossilization was only truly recognized by the nineteenth century. Baron Georges Cuvier, a French scientist at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, was the first to propose the idea, in the early 1800s, that fossils of certain animals represented forms that had died out completely - that is, went extinct.
The understanding concept of “fossil”
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