Article ID: CBB001212345

Alexandre Brongniart (1770--1847) Shows That a “Facts First” Scientific Approach Can Lead to Large-Scale Conclusions (2013)


The early nineteenth century has been described as a time of `Positive Geology'. The goal was to pursue fieldwork and build the edifice of science on `facts,' thereby displacing the theorizing of previous centuries. French naturalists contributed prominently to the evolution of geoscience in that era. Georges Cuvier (1769-1832) and Alexandre Brongniart (1770-1847) were among the researchers who adhered to the `Facts First' approach to understanding nature. Brongniart is an exemplar of the dedicated empiricist, careful observer, and cautious writer who was able to see ways to synthesize facts into conclusions of far-reaching consequence. The result is that collection and description of fossils, and observation of field relationships of rock units, led to an appreciation of the theoretical power of biotic succession, biostratigraphy, the geologic column, and geologic mapping.

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Authors & Contributors
Rudwick, Martin J. S.
Vallance, Thomas
Daszkiewicz, Piotr
Keith, Philippe
Bork, Kennard B.
Penny, H. Glenn
Earth Sciences History: Journal of the History of the Earth Sciences Society
Histoire et Nature
Archives of Natural History
Centaurus: International Magazine of the History of Mathematics, Science, and Technology
Kwartalnik Historii Nauki i Techniki
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
American Philosophical Society
Columbia University
University of Pennsylvania
MIT Press
Methodology of science; scientific method
Earth sciences
Philosophy of science
Historical geology; theory of the earth
Cuvier, Georges
Brongniart, Alexandre
Smith, William
Humboldt, Alexander von
Lamarck, Jean Baptiste Antoine Pierre de Monet de
Agassiz, Jean Louis Rodolphe
Great Britain
Australia; New Zealand
19th century
18th century
20th century, early
20th century
17th century
Institut de France, Paris
Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris

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