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Outlines of the Earth's History A Popular Study in Physiography   By: (1841-1906)

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[Illustration: Dunes at Ipswich Light, Massachusetts. Note the effect of bushes in arresting the movement of the wind blown sand. ]

OUTLINES OF THE EARTH'S HISTORY

A POPULAR STUDY IN PHYSIOGRAPHY

BY

NATHANIEL SOUTHGATE SHALER

PROFESSOR OF GEOLOGY IN HARVARD UNIVERSITY DEAN OF LAWRENCE SCIENTIFIC SCHOOL

ILLUSTRATED WITH INDEX

NEW YORK AND LONDON D. APPLETON AND COMPANY

1898, 1910

PREFACE.

The object of this book is to provide the beginner in the study of the earth's history with a general account of those actions which can be readily understood and which will afford him clear understandings as to the nature of the processes which have made this and other celestial spheres. It has been the writer's purpose to select those series of facts which serve to show the continuous operations of energy, so that the reader might be helped to a truer conception of the nature of this sphere than he can obtain from ordinary text books.

In the usual method of presenting the elements of the earth's history the facts are set forth in a manner which leads the student to conceive that history as in a way completed. The natural prepossession to the effect that the visible universe represents something done, rather than something endlessly doing, is thus re enforced, with the result that one may fail to gain the largest and most educative impression which physical science can afford him in the sense of the swift and unending procession of events.

It is well known to all who are acquainted with the history of geology that the static conception of the earth the idea that its existing condition is the finished product of forces no longer in action led to prejudices which have long retarded, and indeed still retard, the progress of that science. This fact indicates that at the outset of a student's work in this field he should be guarded against such misconceptions. The only way to attain the end is by bringing to the understanding of the beginner a clear idea of successions of events which are caused by the forces operating in and on this sphere. Of all the chapters of this great story, that which relates to the history of the work done by the heat of the sun is the most interesting and awakening. Therefore an effort has been made to present the great successive steps by which the solar energy acts in the processes of the air and the waters.

The interest of the beginner in geology is sure to be aroused when he comes to see how very far the history of the earth has influenced the fate of men. Therefore the aim has been, where possible, to show the ways in which geological processes and results are related to ourselves; how, in a word, this earth has been the well appointed nursery of our kind.

All those who are engaged in teaching elementary science learn the need of limiting the story they have to tell to those truths which can be easily understood by beginners. It is sometimes best, as in stating such difficult matters as those concerning the tides, to give explanations which are far from complete, and which, as to their mode of presentation, would be open to criticism were it not for the fact that any more elaborate statements would most likely be incomprehensible to the novice, thus defeating the teacher's aim.

It will be observed that no account is here given of the geological ages or of the successions of organic life. Chapters on these subjects were prepared, but were omitted for the reason that they made the story too long, and also because they carried the reader into a field of much greater difficulty than that which is found in the physical history of the earth.

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