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Grove Karl Gilbert: A Great Engine of Research
by Stephen J. Pyne
University of Iowa Press, 1980
Paper: 978-1-58729-618-5 | eISBN: 978-1-58729-754-0
Library of Congress Classification QE22.G5P96 2007
Dewey Decimal Classification 550.92

As Stephen Pyne reveals in his biography, few other scientists can match Grove Karl Gilbert’s range of talents. A premier explorer of the American West who made major contributions to the cascade of new discoveries about the earth, Gilbert described two novel forms of mountain building, invented the concept of the graded stream, inaugurated modern theories of lunar origin, helped found the science of geomorphology, and added to the canon of conservation literature.
    Gilbert knew most of geology's grand figures--including John Wesley Powell, Clarence Dutton,  and Clarence King--and Pyne's chronicle of the imperturbable, quietly unconventional Gilbert is couterpointed with sketches of these prominent scientists. The man who wrote that "happiness is sitting under a tent with walls uplifted, just after a brief shower,", created answers to the larger questions of the earth in ways that have become classics of his science.
Stephen Pyne is Regents Professor and historian in the School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, and the author of many books and articles on the history of exploration and environmental history. In 1995 he was awarded the Robert Kirsch Award from the Los Angeles Times for his body-of-work contribution to American letters.

"Stephen Pyne has chosen to emphasize the unique Gilbert blend of geology and mechanics in his treatment of Gilbert’s scientific life and career. Pyne’s fresh insights into Gilbert’s four great monographs, and his recognition of a unifying method and motivation in Gilbert’s studies, are sufficient to grant this biography a lasting place in the literature of science history. . . . Pyne’s biography will stand for many years as the definitive study of Gilbert’s scientific contributions, and it will serve as an indisputable reference for any student of nineteenth-century geology."—Annals of Science

"Stephen J. Pyne has filled a gap in the history of American geology by writing the first modern biography of Grove Karl Gilbert . . .His account places Gilbert's professional attainments squarely in the context of other developments in the coming of age of American geology"--Science

    i. In a Nutshell 3
    The Education of a Classicist 5
    A Clerk in the Cosmos II
    Of Mastodons and Mathematics: The Cohoes Potholes 17
    Cracking the Nutshell 20
    2. "Astride the occidental mule" 22
    A Volunteer Assistant 22
    "Labels written by the Creator": John Strong Newberry 28
    "Hydrographical peculiarities" 34
    West with Wheeler 37
    "A systematic approach": The Geology of a Reconnaissance 5 i
    The Lieutenant and the Major 57
    3. The Major Years 64
    "The western fever" 64
    By Virtue of Its Ensemble: Powell, Dutton, Gilbert 72
    "Certain allied problems in mechanics": The Henry Mountains 83
    Languages for a New Geology: Mechanics, Mathematics,
    Literature 95
    The Society of a Geologist 1o3
    4. A Great Engine of Research io8
    The Division of the Great Basin io8
    The Revolving Chair: Chief Geologist of the U.S.
    Geological Survey II3
    The Scientist as Aristocrat: George Ferdinand Becker 126
    Lake Bonneville 134
    Time's Ratio: The Meaning of Geologic History 145
    "A little daft on the subject of the moon" i52
    The Great Basin Mess 16o
    5. Grade 167
    A "buried star" 167
    The Mean Plain 179
    The Inculcation of Scientific Method 186
    The Text for a University Science: Thomas Chrowder
    Chamberlin 193
    An Elder Statesman 2o0
    6. The Inculcation of Grove Karl Gilbert 203
    Geophysics in the Giant Forest 203
    Gilbert the Glaciologist 219
    Gilbert the Geophysicist 226
    Gilbert the Geomorphologist 236
    The Cycle of Erosion: William Morris Davis 254
    A New Life 262
    Notes 269
    Sources 291
    Biographical Memoirs 295

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