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V12 2009 INDEX       E-SYLUM ARCHIVE

The E-Sylum: Volume 12, Number 37, September 13, 2009, Article 13

GEOLOGY AND NUMISMATICS

Bob Evans submitted these thoughts on Geology and Numismatics. -Editor

Last week Chris Faulkner submitted a transcription of an account of monetary practices experienced by Sir Charles Lyell in Philadelphia in 1842, a perilous time indeed for holding paper money for any length of time. I am always interested in associations between numismatics and geology, no matter how obscure, since the two subjects are linked inextricably in my own life.

Lyell was one of the founders of the science of geology, being the principal early advocate of Uniformitarianism, the concept that holds that geological processes seen active in the present (slow erosion, deposition, dissolution, etc.) were also those that occurred in the past.

Although this idea may seem obvious today, it was not always so, and Lyell's arguments formed the foundation for other breakthrough realizations in the 19th century philosophy of science, concepts that required a great age for the earth, such as Darwin's observations on the transmutation of species.

In my library I have another 19th-century geology book that uses medieval coins to illustrate in part the principle of uniformitarianism: James Dwight Dana's Text-Book of Geology, 1863. In that book the author uses a coin conglomerate found ten feet beneath the bed of the River Dove at Tutbury, Staffordshire, England to illustrate geological processes continuing in the recent era, and to show the amount of deposition occurring in only a few centuries.

Dana Coin Conglomerate

The illustration is presented alongside a depiction of an estimated 250-year-old human fossil preserved in a limestone deposit from the Caribbean. A similar illustration appears in Dana's much larger work, A Manual of Geology, also 1863, a later edition of which can be found in Google Books. To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: HOW PEOPLE IN 1842 USED COUNTERFEIT DETECTORS (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v12n36a18.html)

Wayne Homren, Editor

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