Natural Resources, School of


Date of this Version

Fall 1999

Document Type



Nebraska History, v. 80, no. 3, Fall 1999,pp 95-104.


Changes in ideas and in technology can come about as slow incremental modifications, as well as by major paradigm shifts. In the case of the development of the ideas of geologic history and time, I will try to present these changes broadly and then look at how some of these have affected interpretation of Nebraska geology. Changes of view on three fronts were important in the development of geologic history and time concepts.

First is the question of the nature of time. Is time cyclic or is it linear? The Greco-Oriental cultures had a world view based on cosmic cycles, but the Judea-Christian world view was more linear and reflected the historical nature of the Bible.

Second, the development of modern geologic thought originated in Europe partly as a result of the long development there of perspective art. Multipoint and aerial perspective were mastered by northern European artists during the Renaissance.

Third, the seventeenth and e ighteenth centuries witnessed the development of ideas regarding how to find places on the Earth.

My view, developed since the day that boy I was found a career on the discard pile of a Maryland factory, is that Nebraska's geologic history extends from r cks billions of years old buried beneath the surface to sediments accumulating today. It is a story of volcanism, faulting, flooding by ancient seas, erosion of emergent lands by rivers and glaciers, winds moving sands and silts, and shifting and ever-changing landscapes. To understand that geologic history, you must be willing to think in four dimensions and to take an immense journey.