Article ID: CBB001251741

Contributions of the Geological Survey of India: 1851--1890, to the Concept of Gondwána-Land (2012)


In 1864, Sclater proposed a Tertiary continent connecting Africa, Madagascar, and the Mascarene Islands, off of the southwest coast of India, to explain the distribution of small mammals. His `Lemuria' was superseded among biogeographers by Wallace's land bridges in 1876. The notion of an ancient continent of Gondwána-Land had a different intellectual lineage. It grew as a paleogeographical idea from the fieldwork and paleontological studies of the Geological Survey of India (GSI) in the 1850s, 1860s, and 1870s and proved to be durable, albeit with different configurations, over the last century and a half. Initially, the Gondwána rocks were termed Raniganj Series, Talchir Series, and so on, after the great coalfields in India, but in the 1870s they were consolidated into the Gondwána Series and then Gondwána System. At the same time, the GSI scientists posited a continent of Gondwána age rocks stretching from Africa across India and on to Australia. In 1885, Suess proposed a more limited Gondwánan-aged Indo-African continent, mostly similar to Sclater's Lemuria, which he named Gondwána-Land. Suess's construct also included a tectonic component that the GSI's landmass did not. But it was not the vast continent in terms of its size that the GSI people had envisioned, which, in time, Suess would also acknowledge. In 1890, William Blanford, a central figure in the GSI part of the Gondwána story, reviewed and expanded the concept of the continent to South America, based on Neumayr's 1887 work, and suggested an Antarctica involvement. Curiously, however, some historians and geologists have overlooked the work that preceded Suess and have credited Suess with the entire idea.

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Authors & Contributors
Radhakrishna, B. P.
Camardi, Giovanni
Morey, G. B
Godard, Gaston
Viaud, Jean-Marc
Chakabarti, Ranatosh
Earth Sciences History: Journal of the History of the Earth Sciences Society
Biology and Philosophy
Indian Journal of History of Science
History of Meteorology
Science in Context
The Compass: The Earth-Science Journal of Sigma Gamma Epsilon
Geological Society of India
Centre vendéen de recherches historiques
Rutgers University Press
Earth sciences
Historical geography
Travel; exploration
Scientific expeditions
Lyell, Charles
Suess, Eduard
Winchell, Newton Horace
Custer, George Armstrong
Auden, John Bicknell
Pervinquière, Léon
Time Periods
19th century
20th century
20th century, early
18th century
21st century
Himalayan Mountains (Nepal)
United States
North America
India Geological Survey

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