Melting the Earth: The History of Ideas on Volcanic Eruptions Hardcover – 1 Apr 1999
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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.
Top Customer Reviews
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!
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
The history of ideas on volcanic eruptions
By Haraldur Sigurdsson
First Draft By Matt Lindsey
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.
Cecile Comp, Caribbean volcanic island native
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