Between the mid-seventeenth century and the early nineteenth century there developed in Britain a range of empirical and increasingly secular sciences concerned with the earth. This book presents a detailed account of how this development led to the creation of a complex socio-intellectual fabric of methods, ambitions, facts and ideas which took on the nature of a distinctive, self-sustaining discipline: 'geology'. During this period the criteria for a proper science of the earth were continually reassessed and the earth as an object of science was radically reinterpreted. In his account of this transformation, Dr Porter treats science as an integral but distinct part of the spectrum of man's intellectual and social activities. His account thus illuminates the nature of science and scientific knowledge as a dynamic intellectual, social and cultural enterprise. The book will be of interest not only to historians and philosophers of science but also to social historians and geologists.