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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Google meets Geoart!

Happy birdthday Nicolaus! 
On occasion of his 374th birthday, Google devoted today's doodle to the pioneer of stratigraphy: Nicolaus Steno. The design is essential but elegant, and clearly refers to the law of superposition. Indeed Nicolaus Steno pioneered the idea that sedimentary layers are deposited in a time sequence, with the oldest at the bottom and the youngest at the top.
Today's doodle, devoted to NSteno
Steno's doodle is very artistic, but Steno himself used the visual language to express geological knowledge.

Geological history of Tuscany, according to Nicolaus Steno. Image from Earth Observatory.
Infact, Steno's works are often accompanied by visual material, fundamental for communicating his geological theories. There are no better words than those of Rudwick (1976) to comment this phenomenon: "the development of a distinctive visual language was a striking feature of the emergence of geology as a new science, and it has continued to be a prominent feature of the discoursse of geologists ever since".

In the formative years of geology, fossil shark teeth were named glossopetrae, or tongue-stones, and believed to have magical properties. Steno visually compared fossil teeth to recent ones, from the head of a modern shark.

Rudwick, M. (1976). The emergence of a visual language for geological science.Hist. Sci., xiv: 149-195