George F. Kunz, Gentleman Explorer


It’s a Golden Oldies weekend, with a Geoscientist of the Week I first described back in 2014.


The US Geological Survey has said almost everything that needs to be said about this man: “George F. Kunz (1856-1932) [was] a mineralogist and gemologist, gentleman explorer, and employee of the USGS and Tiffany & Co.”

That’s pretty awesome.

The great dramas of money, power, history, and beauty all figured in Dr. Kunz’s life.

And until reading this, unless you happen to be a specialist or know a certain kind of New Yorker, you have probably never heard of him.
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Georgius Agricola – Renaissance Geologist

 

"Why, yes I did walk the Earth at the same time as Da Vinci and Copernicus." - G. Agricola

“Why, yes, I was around at the same time as Da Vinci and Copernicus.” – G. Agricola

Georgius Agricola…the name conjures up images of togas, but not at a modern party.

Actually he wasn’t Roman. This German by the name of Georg Bauer just took the Latin name because all cool people did back in the early 16th century. It’s punny: “bauer” means “farmer” in German, and so does “agricola” in Latin (sorry to ruin 24 for you).

But what possible relevance could a Georgius Agricola have today?

Well, he did lay the basis for the mining and metal working industries that have brought you smartphones and skyscrapers. And he could think straight in an age of alchemy and religious fervor.

Agricola didn’t go along with the crowd. While others talked how everything is made of different proportions of earth, wind, fire, and air, he checked things out objectively (and got rich in the process).

And UC Berkeley’s Museum of Paleontology calls him “the founder of geology as a discipline.” So there’s that, too.

Agricola’s life

Unlike some of the earth scientists we’ve looked at, Georg Bauer wasn’t an aristocrat. His father was a cloth merchant in Saxony (part of modern Germany) and was prosperous enough to send Georg to Leipzig University, which was strongly Catholic, in 1517.
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