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Four Revolutions in the Earth SciencesFrom Heresy to Truth$
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James Powell

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780231164481

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231164481.001.0001

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A Trivial Process

A Trivial Process

Chapter:
(p.167) A Trivial Process
Source:
Four Revolutions in the Earth Sciences
Author(s):

James Lawrence Powell

Publisher:
Columbia University Press
DOI:10.7312/columbia/9780231164481.003.0021

This chapter takes a historical look at how the idea of meteorite impact originated. In the late 1950s, Eugene Merle Shoemaker, a precocious geology graduate of the California Institute of Technology, was working for the U.S. Geological Survey mapping a set of odd geologic plateau features called the Hopi Buttes. Shoemaker thought that the Hopi Buttes just might represent the kind of features that geologists would encounter when they got to the Moon. He would go on to make key discoveries that helped solve two of the greatest puzzles in science: the birth of the Moon and the death of the dinosaurs. Both would turn out to be caused by the collision of objects in space, and Shoemaker would be one of the first to recognize that “the impact of solid bodies is the most fundamental of all processes that have taken place on the terrestrial planets.” This chapter also considers the pioneering work of Galileo Galilei and others such as Jack Green, Ralph Baldwin, and Robert Sinclair Dietz on the origin of the Moon.

Keywords:   meteorite impact, Eugene Merle Shoemaker, Hopi Buttes, Moon, dinosaurs, space, terrestrial planets, Galileo Galilei, Jack Green, Ralph Baldwin

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