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ERIC Number: EJ1164611
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010-Jan
Pages: 11
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-1089-9995
Six Syllabi from the Early Years of American Geological Education, 1817-1838
Stearns, Richard G.; Corgan, James X.
Journal of Geoscience Education, v58 n1 p21-31 Jan 2010
Between 1817 and 1838 professors at the University of Pennsylvania, South Carolina College, Yale College, and Columbia College published six syllabi for earth science courses. All stressed geology. These syllabi give unique insight into classrooms of almost 200 years ago. The greatest difference between the six syllabi involved historical geology. Some pioneer professors viewed observation as the only basis for interpreting geological history. Others viewed Biblical revelation as the dominant, or at least an important, guide to deciphering the history of Planet Earth. Eventually differing approaches to historical interpretation led to a well-documented religion-geology confrontation. It culminated in a much-publicized attempt to impeach a college president who taught an observation-based geology course. After 1832, the year of this failed impeachment, known syllabi continued to emphasize observation. By 1834 the once exonerated college president and his entire faculty were fired. By 1840 research in the Alps showed that widely distributed high altitude earth-surface sediments of mixed clastic character, generally called the Drift, are of glacial origin. This observation-based view was gradually accepted by much of the scientific community. Before 1840 some earth science teachers saw all occurrences of the Drift as clear proof that the Flood of Noah covered the entire planet, including the highest mountains. The Drift and the Noachian Flood were major themes in some science classrooms. Today, the Drift is less controversial. Evolution is the new battleground but the conflict is the same. It is an impasse between the interpretation of Biblical revelation and the interpretation of observation.
National Association of Geoscience Teachers. Carleton College W-SERC, One North College Street, Northfield, MN 55057. Tel: 540-568-6675; Fax: 540-568-8058; e-mail:; Website:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Pennsylvania; South Carolina; Connecticut; New York
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A