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Mar 10 / Dave Schumaker

Geology quotes and the geologists behind them

Earlier today, I made a comment on Twitter about the quotability of geologists or geology related material. I’m not talking about puns (i.e., “geologists know what makes the bed rock”), we have plenty of those, but popular or famous quotes. Quotes like those from Einstein – “Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater.”

So physicists and even mathematicians get quote love, but where are the geologists? I found some geology related quotes from the poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“We learn geology the morning after the earthquake.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

“A cultivated man, wise to know and bold to perform, is the end to which nature works, and the education of the will is the flowering and result of all this geology and astronomy.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

There is a famous geology quote from the philosopher Will Durant.

“Civilization exists by geological consent, subject to change without notice.”
-Will Durant

Betsy Mason, a science editor for, heard my pleas on Twitter and suggested a few more!

“It was with unalloyed pleasure that I became aware that a vigorous earthquake was in progress.”
-G.K. Gilbert on the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

“The elements that unite to make the Grand Canyon the most sublime spectacle in nature are multifarious and exceedingly diverse.”
-John Wesley Powell

“We are like a judge confronted by a defendant who declines to answer, and we must determine the truth from the circumstantial evidence.”
-Alfred Wegener

A few other quotations have been attributed to Grove Karl Gilbert as well.

“Knowledge of Nature is an account at bank, where each dividend is added to the principal and the interest is ever compounded; and hence it is that human progress, founded on natural knowledge, advances with ever increasing speed.”
-G.K. Gilbert

“The conflict of theories, leading, as it eventually must, to the survival of the fittest, is advantageous.”
-G.K. Gilbert

We can’t forget John McPhee, author of many great geology stories!

“Rocks are records of events that took place at the time they formed. They are books. They have a different vocabulary, a different alphabet, but you learn how to read them.”
-John McPhee

“With their four-dimensional minds, and in their interdisciplinary ultra verbal way, geologists can wiggle out of almost anything.”
-John McPhee

What other geology related quotes, or sayings by geologists are you aware of?

Update: Just noticed that Callan Bentley over at the NOVA Geoblog has a geology quotes page as well.

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