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Cuvier’s History of the Natural Sciences

Georges Cuvier

3. Early Eighteenth-Century Advances in Earth Sciences

4. Origins of the Earth and Advances in Eighteenth-Century Geology

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Eighteenth-Century Geology. Plate from Faujas de Saint-Fond’s Recherches sur les volcans éteints du Vivarais et du Velay… (1778). Cliché Bibliothèque centrale, MNHN.


In the previous session, I addressed the system of Chain of Being1 that was linked, through illegitimate interpretations, to Leibniz’s metaphysical principles. I first examined the logical aspect, then its application to realities and we saw that it was indefensible.

As announced, we will now broach the subject of geogony or geology. These terms are not synonyms and only evoke analogous ideas. Geogony2 is included in geology, which is divided into geognosy and geogony. Geognosy is the positive science that describes the layers of the Earth, the order of their superimposition, their inclination compared to the horizon, and the direction of their projections at the surface. Geogony, the other part of geology, focuses on the theory of Earth. It is the explanatory science for facts observed by geognosy. To achieve t...

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