Final Years

The new grand duke hired Steno to tutor his 11-year-old son. Then in 1675 Steno was ordained and took a vow of poverty. The pope appointed him a bishop in 1677. The last years of his life were fairly dismal.

In 1684 he wrote the pope, pleading for a release from his obligations. He wanted to return to Florence, where his days had been happiest. he was officially granted his request, but right before leaving he was asked to make a detour to help strengthen a new church in schwerin. unfortunately, the priest whom steno was to be helping became ill, and steno's brief delay in northern Germany was extended two years. Years of overwork, sleep deprivation, fasting, and not taking care of his physical needs took their toll, and steno himself fell gravely ill. he died at age 48, on November 25, 1686, in schwerin. his only belongings were a few worn-out garments.

steno was not buried until 11 months later. his body was shipped from hamburg to Florence in a crate that supposedly contained books. seamen would have been hesitant to transport the crate if they had known its true contents. steno's remains were buried in the crypt of the Medici in the san Lorenzo church. steno's scientific career was brief, but his Prodromus is as relevant today as it was when it was published more than 300 years ago, and his ideas are presented in all current basic geology textbooks. in honor of the 300-year anniversary of the publication of Prodromus, in 1969 the Danish Geological society started awarding a steno Medal for outstanding achievements in the field of geology.

steno's greatness was in clearly and formally stating that which seems simple and obvious, though it stirred up controversy at the time. People did not want to believe the heart, the seat of the soul, was simply a muscle. And what was fantastic about the organic material of sharks' teeth being replaced with mineral matter? Most upsetting, however, was ste-no's insistence that scientists look to the Earth itself rather than supernatural revelation to learn about its creation. it took a frail Danish priest to open up the field of geology by reading a story that had been waiting to be told for billions of years.

See also evolution; fossil; Gondwana, Gondwanaland.


Cloud, Preston. Adventures in Earth History; being a volume of significant writings from original sources, on cosmology, geology, climatology, oceanography, organic evolution, and related topics of interest to students of earth history, from the time of Nicolaus Steno to the present. san Francisco, Calif.: W. H. Freeman, 1970.

Cutler, Alan. The Seashell on the Mountaintop: A Story of Science, Sainthood and the Humble Genius Who Discovered a New History of the Earth. New york: Dutton, 2003.

steno, Nicolaus. De Solido Intra Solidum Naturaliter Contento Dissertationis Prodromus. Florence, 1669.

-. Discours sur l'anatomie du cerveau. Paris, 1669.

-. Steno: Geological Papers. Edited by Gustav scherz.

Translated by Alex J. Pollock. odense, 1969.

Stille, Wilhelm Hans (1876-1966) German

Tectonic Geologist Wilhelm Hans stille began his studies in stratigraphy and tectonics near his home in hannover, Germany, and continued to do his field-work in this area for many years. His exploration work in Colombia introduced him to the continent of south America, where he continued to do most of his research later on. Although he did not do much research abroad, he helped other students who worked on the Mediterranean region. his constant reading helped him to become a leader in developing the field of global tectonics by synthesizing the geologic history of many regions. he is best known for proposing a system of about 50 oro-genic phases in the Phanerozoic eon, many of which still bear the names he proposed. stille used a concept known as geosynclinal theory that was later replaced by the plate tectonic paradigm. The basic idea of the discredited geosynclinal theory is that sediments accumulate in basins that cause the crust to sag downward, and when they become several miles deep the heat from deep in the Earth causes the sediments to partially melt, generating belts of magmas that rise to the surface forming magmatic arcs. Although the geosyncline concept is no longer used in geology or tectonics, the work of stille on correlating tectonic events across Europe and the world is noteworthy. The idea of seafloor spreading was not proposed until a year after stille died, so he never had the opportunity to place his models and observations into a plate tectonic framework. stille was instrumental in establishing the global correlation of many geologic events, such as major deformation and magmatic episodes in mountain belts, and this was later important in establishing supercontinent cycles. In this concept, many orogenic events are globally correlated because they occur when most of the planet's landmasses aggregate into one large continent, forming widespread global orogenic events. When the supercontinent breaks up, there is widespread rifting and magmatism around the margins of the fragments breaking off, and plate tectonic drift will separate these fragments so that they are later widely dispersed. stille's work enabled later geologists to propose many of the events in different parts of the supercontinent cycle.

stille started out as a chemistry student, but his interest shifted to geology under the influence of German geologist Adolf von Koenen of Göttingen. stille worked for the Prussian geological survey and then taught in hannover. in 1912 he became a professor stratigraphy, stratification, cyclothem

of geology and the director of the Royal saxon Geological survey at Leipzig. He was later named professor at the university of Berlin in 1932 and developed a reputation of being an outstanding teacher and philosopher of global tectonics.

stille was known as a leader in German geology, an outstanding investigator and collator of the history of global tectonic events, and a great teacher. He directed attention to the explanation of the relationships among large crustal features, and his studies of the eugeosynclinal belts led to the interest in their magmatic history. stille received many honorary doctorates and was elected an honorary member in numerous academics of science, geological societies, and other scientific organizations. he became the honorary president of the German Geological society, which awarded him the Leopold von Buch Medal and later had the hans stille Medal instituted in his honor.

See also basin, sedimentary basin; continental drift; deformation of rocks; European geology; passive margin; Phanerozoic; plate tectonics; supercontinent cycles.

Continue reading here: Stratigraphy strati cation cyclothem

Was this article helpful?

0 0