I’ve been spending the last week, as expected, reading about fossils. This has taken me through Aristotle, Georgius Agricola, Leonardo da Vinci, Robert Hooke, Niels Stensen, Benoît de Maillet, Leibniz, Buffon, Voltaire, James Hutton, Georges Cuvier, Kant and Charles Lyell. Some of these I’ve read; all I’ve read about. Interestingly, the translation of Agricola’s De re metallica was by US President and ex-mining engineer Herbert Hoover and his wife.
The notes file is growing, and the reading list too. There are lots of good works out there that tell parts of the story I’m interested in – for example, Martin Rudwick’s Bursting the Limits of Time: The Reconstruction of Geohistory in the Age of Revolution and his Worlds before Adam: the Reconstruction of Geohistory in the Age of Reform – and I’m clear that I’m not trying to offer a history of ideas with this project. Rather, I’m interested in how the challenge of fossils was worked through in terms of beliefs about the world at different times. I also went back and re-read sections of Foucault’s The Order of Things which has some discussion of fossils.
A few other things have been taking up some time: writing a response to two reader reports on The Birth of Territory; preparing my lectures next week in Sydney on that book; and enjoying Canberra and its cycle paths. A full circuit of Lake Burley Griffin is about 18 miles, so makes for a good ride in the early evening.