Washington, March 12 (ANI): In a new study, two geologists have determined that Copernicus, the renowned Polish astronomer, had invented the field of geology more than 500 years ago.
According to a report in Discovery News, Walter Alvarez, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, and science historian Henrique Leitao of the Universidade de Lisboa in Portugal, argue that Copernicus set the stage for modern science more than 500 years ago when he recognized that Earth was not only not the center of the universe, but a planet.
"Everybody has heard of the Copernican Revolution," said Alvarez. "But that revolution has always been associated with physics and astronomy. Geology is almost an afterthought," he added.
As a result, geology - at least in the English and American histories of it - is thought of as commencing with Scottish geologist James Hutton and the "Geological Revolution" of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
"But in other traditions around the world, Earth science, which includes geology as well as marine and atmospheric sciences, started much earlier, and even includes voyages of discovery by the Portuguese in the 1500s," said Alvarez.
"Physicists and geologists are both first class scientists. They just deal with different things," said Alvarez. "Physics is a high-prestige science and geology, at this point, is not," he added.
"And that's a problem," said Alvarez, because Earth science needs to be taken very seriously if we are going to continue to have a habitable planet.
It's also a problem that has led to fewer Earth science classes being offered in high schools - and even then as secondary science classes.
So, there are fewer opportunities for young people to be exposed to it.
That means fewer chances for students to discover if they have a special interest in studying the Earth.
That eventually also leads to fewer adults who have good grasp of how the planet works, which becomes a real problem when critical Earth science issues like global warming need to be understood by the public and policymakers.
"This whole (high school) system dates from 1894," explained University of California at Davis geologist Eldridge Moores.
That's when a panel of 10 scholars, including only one scientist, created the ideas of a fixed set of year-by-year subjects to teach that did not include geology.
"It went into eclipse at that time," said Moores.
"Earth sciences are particularly useful for teaching all the other sciences because they integrate all the other sciences," he added. (ANI)