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Melting the Earth: The History of Ideas on Volcanic Eruptions Hardcover – 1 Apr 1999

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc; 1st Edition edition (1 April 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195106652
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195106657
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 3 x 25.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 847,253 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Amazon Review

Erupting volcanoes provide some of the greatest natural "firework" displays, which are nevertheless also a sombre reminder of the power within the Earth. And, as Earth becomes increasingly crowded, more and more people are living within the deadly shadows of active volcanoes, generally because of poverty.

Melting the Earth tells the fascinating story of how our understanding of the often catastrophic phenomena of volcanoes has developed over the centuries. Haraldur Sigurdsson is an Iceland-born professor of geology in America and internationally known expert on volcanoes. His self-proclaimed interest in the history of our understanding of volcanicity comes from reading the accounts by the ancient Greek and Roman scholars, especially the remarkable eyewitness report of Pliny the Younger of the famous eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79, which destroyed the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum and killed Pliny's uncle.

Carefully researched, with many black and white reproductions of historic illustrations, Sigurdsson writes with authority and leads the uninitiated reader through the complex history of ideas about volcanoes. Their development has been intimately related to our understanding of the Earth's interior and the processes of plate tectonics which have been revolutionised over the last few decades. Consequently, the story reaches far beyond volcanoes.

There is serious science here but it is easily negotiable by any reader with some basic chemistry. A glossary, notes and bibliography plus good index provide help for the general reader and guidance for the keen student of volcanoes. --Douglas Palmer

About the Author

Haraldur Sigurdsson is Professor in the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island and the author of Caribbean Volcanoes: A Field Guide and editor-in-chief of Encyclopedia of Volcanoes.

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By A Customer on 4 Aug. 1999
Format: Hardcover
In a wonderfully lucid fashion, Haraldur Sigurdsson take the reader through the history of ideas in volcanology. Starting with the classical world, the story evolves from the earliest philosophers - who first grappled with the meaning of volcanic phenomena - through to the scientists of the Renaissance, and later, who developed the physical principles which now underlie current ideas of how the Earth melts. 'Melting the Earth' is liberally illustrated, and contains many anecdotes and illuminating excerpts from ancient writings - from the early Greek and Roman poets, Pindar and Ovid, to the tales of Baron Munchausen.
This book will appeal to anyone with an interest in the history of science, or a more general interest in volcanoes, and it is a delight to read!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x90b8f3a8) out of 5 stars 8 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x90c3245c) out of 5 stars An excellent book for all readers interested in volcanoes. 28 May 1999
By Dr. Rosaly Lopes-Gautier - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Why do volcanoes erupt? Humans have struggled with this question for many thousands of years, no doubt ever since our ancient ancestors first saw the beauty and power of volcanic eruptions. There are other books available that will tell the reader what we now know about volcanoes, but this is the first book that describes how we have come to understand how they work. It is a wonderful and rare type of book, as it combines history, philosophy, science, and art. The illustrations, many from old lithographs, are very well reproduced. Some come from unlikely sources such as "The Travels of Baron Munchausen". Munchausen's author, the brilliant rogue Rudolph Raspe, was in fact a student of volcanoes and made some significant contributions before his bad behavior led to his disgrace. His story is just one of the many fascinating tales in Melting the Earth. I know this book well, as I reviewed the original manuscript. I am very pleased to see it published and have no hesitation to recommend it to all readers interested in volcanoes, including professional volcanologists and students. Dr. Rosaly Lopes-Gautier
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9167bfd8) out of 5 stars Buy Two of These!! 15 Jun. 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Dr. Sigurdsson has woven a superbly documented and wonderfully informative chronical of volcanic phenomena and theory. In Melting the Earth: The History of Ideas on Volcanic Eruptions, Sigurdsson introduces us to ancient philosophers and contemporary scientists alike. We learn of the Earth's volcanic dynamos: Thera, Etna, Vesuvius, (to mention a few)--from the events leading up to their explosive eruptions, environmental effcts.
Dr. Sigurdsson has compiled a true treasure a preeminent source book on the history of volcanic theory make for provocative reading, causing, awe and respect for this fearsome force of nature. Led by Dr. Sigurdsson's love of the subject and his apt narrative style, we come away educated, entertained, and hungry for more.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x91bd2d08) out of 5 stars Very good book 12 Mar. 2003
By matt - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
"Melting the Earth"
The history of ideas on volcanic eruptions
By Haraldur Sigurdsson
First Draft By Matt Lindsey
Geo 103
The book I chose to read was "Melting the Earth" by Haraldur Sigurdsson. This book covers two of my most favorite subjects History and geology, which made this book even more interesting to read. Early Sigurdsson writes on subjects from, the Polynesian people and there fire myth Maui, who lives in the far depths of the earth, and when he turns while dreaming. He causes earthquakes on the earth above to the discovery of radiology. If you want to read a captivating and educational book about the history of volcanoes containing a wide variety of historical an mythical facts, I truly recommend this book.
In the beginning of this book, Sigurdsson explains early source of fire, some possible ways it was first introduced and used throughout the years to come. An excellent example was 600,000 year old ovens in china to burnt clay found in Africa that dated a staggering 1.5 million years old. Once the early homo-erectus learned of fire there culture changed forever, now they were able to heat and shape rocks more efficiently. But the earliest know form of tools made by homo-erectus was 2.5 million years ago in eastern Africa, made of obsidian (volcanic black glass). Later in this book, Sigurdsson touches on such people as, Kelvin, Zeus other Greek gods, Homer, Socrates, Plato. Then he moves on to discus the bible, and many more verities of philosophers and legends in several different cultures from around the world. World tragedies and accounts of mass destruction are accounted throughout this book, from risky sulfur mining in very active volcanoes to earthquakes that kill 800,000 people, with one major eruption.
About 3/4ths the way through the book he starts delegating a lot about the sources of volcanoes and the cause for there mass eruptions, he also discusses many different geologists that have also studied in this area, comparing both his ideas and theirs to form an overall complete analysis of the history of volcanoes.
It isn't till the last part of the book, he actually starts describing the earth and its mantel strictly on plate tectonics and magma generation. With the discovery of the solid mantel below our feet. In the very last page, he also talks about how major volcanic activity is not limited to earth alone, in fact many planets have had explosions almost 10 times what we do today. Leaving the everlasting question, is there life elsewhere in the galaxy?

I thought this was a very good book, mainly the fact that it was able to keep your attention throughout the whole thing, by bringing up myths from the pacific islands to actual catastrophes, from the first know use of fire to radio carbon of today, this book hits you with just about everything from every angle you could possibly imagine, from the philosophers point of view to the geologists findings through many long tedious expeditions.
Something's I really did not like about this book, was that he made constant reference to others work, and many books surrounding this field, though the points made with Sigurdsson references were helpful it was just that in my opinion he had to many and made it a little hard to fallow.
Overall I think this was a good book. I recommend that if you are interested in volcanoes and the earth around us, you should definitely read this book. The good out weights the bad aspects in this book, you will be in for a great treat as you read about the myths and legends of the past world to the facts and seemingly strange properties of the world today.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x90c6424c) out of 5 stars Excellant compendium of sources and resources 3 Dec. 2000
By Atheen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Two of my favorite subjects are history and geology, so this was a double treat for me, since it's sort of a history of geology! Sigurdsson has created a marvelous compendium of sources on the subject of volcanism from mythologies among people native to areas of techtonic activity through Roman authors on the natural sciences to European and American scientists and philosophers into the early 20th Century. Probably one of the most significant things I discovered in reading the book was the underlying cause for the distain of the average person for the "rational" approach of the scientist. In laying before me the various theories for the cause of volcanism and earthquakes, Sigurdsson indirectly makes it clear that the "logical" assumptions of men of science can prove to be wrong, and the best research--for the technology of the time--can still lead to erroneous evaluations shaped by preconceived notions of the world, whether those concepts are biblico/religious ideology or a strongly held school of scientific thinking. Only by reading the entire book does one realize, also indirectly, that the scientific method of enquirey is the only way of gaining ground on the principles underlying natural processes. While the various authors of different theories may be in part or even entirely wrong, it is only through the testing and retesting of theories against the sterling measure of reality, that a clearer, working model of how nature works will arise. What is truely amazing is that so many early thinkers came to have at least a partial understanding of volcanism and of planetary and solar formation in modern terms. Also impressive were the novel approaches to experimental geology that were acheived. Many of the early investigators were truely creative people. Sigurdsson appears to be very well read, and his appreciation of the value of the visual documentary record, in forms such as pre-literate paintings and woodcut and engraved illustrations from rare books, is impressive and worthy of an individual trained in historical research rather than in the sciences. For anyone with an interest in geology, an interest in history, or simply someone who appreciates a good job of research, this is an excellant volume. It would also be a useful starting point for research on most other topics in the history of science, as many of the better resources are mentioned in the text and in the bibliographic entries for each chapter at the end of it. Some of the latter are in German, French or Italian, although many are in English translation in Sigurdsson's citing or can be found in English translations elsewhere.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x90c173f0) out of 5 stars A scientific journey through history, art and philosophy 3 Jun. 2000
By CC - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Haraldur Sigurdsson's work, Melting the Earth: the history of ideas on volcanic eruptions, is a rare blend of art, history and scientific research. Writing with an ease that belies profound historical and scientific research, the author explores centuries-old myths and theories about why volcanoes erupt, offers well-researched scientific explanations about volcanic activity, and provides us with philosophical inspirations about man's constant intrigue with the magic of nature. Beautifully complemented with art and photography, this work is easily understood by those of us whose only knowledge of volcanoes is having lived in the shadow of one.
Cecile Comp, Caribbean volcanic island native
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