Keith Montgomery

University of Wisconsin - Marathon County


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You are going to study the development of the glacial theory in the period 1800-1870, with particular emphasis on 1800-1845.


There is an introduction that provides an orientation to discussion taking place in the early 1800s on the nature of recent geologic history -- discussion that eventually came to include the possibility of extensive glaciation in, and beyond, the Alps. The introduction outlines the geological questions that were being asked at this time and the prevailing approaches to their study.


You will be asked to work through two levels of detail to gain insight into how geologists worked out answers to various questions about landscapes and geologic history in this period, and about how glaciation came to be added to the mix of solutions ("GoogleEarth Tour of Europe" and various "Episodes"). You will study reaction to the suggestion of continental-scale glaciation in light of then existing ideas about the physical landscape, climate, and the workings of the planet in general.


Finally, you will be asked to complete one of the following tracks:


A. Research Option: you will be asked to write two papers using original ("primary") sources in preparation for a class debate or discussion


B. Reading Option: you will be asked to consider some more general questions as you read the history of the theory
or both.




Some of the material will be presented through GoogleEarth: you will be taken to view several of the locations studied by naturalists in the early 19th Century and asked to consider their work in this visual context. At this time geology emphasized local field observation and inductive inference over the global theorizing that had characterized the early history of the discipline (and, indeed, the theory of glaciation was criticized as being based too little on the former and containing too much of the latter).


Second, you will be provided with, and asked to read extensive original sources from the time period in question. Access to these sources will be through GoogleBooks. Until recently, personal access to a collection of sources such as these was possible for only a few individuals at two or three institutions in the world. The bibliography provided here is the first, extensive compilation of such sources on a topic such as this.


As much as possible, original art work has been used to illustrate the material presented and, in part, this has been made possible through access to original sources. In other instances, when possible, quality photography has been chosen to illustrate the original locales.


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