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Werner, Abraham Gottlob

geology freiberg mining theory

[ ver ner] (1749–1817) German mineralogist and geologist: proposed Neptunist theory of geology.

Werner came from a well-off family operating ironworks in a traditional mining area, and he was educated at the Freiberg Mining Academy and the University of Leipzig, studying law and languages and returning to Freiberg in 1775 as a lecturer in mining. He became the foremost geologist of his time, now remembered for his Neptunist theory of the origin of the Earth, which was widely accepted for much of the 18th-c. He proposed that all rocks were precipitated as sediments or chemical precipitates in a universal ocean created by the biblical Flood, and that all geological strata thus followed a universal and specific sequence. The lowest layer contained ‘primitive’ rocks such as granites and slates, the next higher layer included shales and fossilized fish, then followed limestones, sandstones and chalks, and finally alluvial clays and gravels. Although such a scheme fitted moderately well with the geology around Freiberg, increased knowledge of the geology of other parts of Europe revealed the flaws in his ideas, and it was largely modified by uniformitarian theory. However, much of his work was of lasting value, his ideas and his many students having a great influence in shaping modern geology.

Werner, Alfred [next] [back] Wergeland, Agnes Mathilde (1857–1914) - World History

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