Like his predecessor in this field of inquiry, Mr. Poulett Scrope, Charles Darwin seems to have been greatly impressed by these facts, and he argued from them that the rocks exhibiting the foliated structure must have been in a state of plasticity, like that of a cooling mass of lava. At that time the suggestive experiments of Tresca, Daubree, and others, showing that solid masses under the influence of enormous pressure become actually plastic, had not been published. Had Darwin been aware of these facts he would have seen that it was not necessary to assume a state of imperfect solidity in rock-masses in order to account for their having yielded to pressure and tension, and, in doing so, acquiring the new characters which distinguish the crystalline schists.

The views put forward by Darwin on the origin of the crystalline schists found an able advocate in Mr. Daniel Sharpe, who in 1852 and 1854 published two papers, dealing with the geology of the Scottish Highlands and of the Alps respectively, in which he showed that the principles arrived at by Darwin when studying the South American rocks afford a complete explanation of the structure of the two districts in question.

But, on the other hand, the conclusions of Darwin and Sharpe were met with the strongest opposition by Sir Roderick Murchison and Dr. A. Geikie, who in 1861 read a paper before the Geological Society "On the Coincidence between Stratification and Foliation in the Crystalline Rocks of the Scottish Highlands," in which they insisted that their observations in Scotland tended to entirely disprove the conclusions of Darwin that foliation in rocks is a secondary structure, and entirely independent of the original stratification of the rock-masses.

Now it is a most significant circumstance that, no sooner did the officers of the Geological Survey commence the careful and detailed study of the Scottish Highlands than they found themselves compelled to make a formal retraction of the views which had been put forward by Murchison and Geikie in opposition to the conclusions of Darwin. The officers of the Geological Survey have completely abandoned the view that the foliation of the Highland rocks has been determined by their original stratification, and admit that the structure is the result of the profound movements to which the rocks have been subjected. The same conclusions have recently been supported by observations made in many different districts--among which we may especially refer to those of Dr. H. Reusch in Norway, and those of Dr. J. Lehmann in Saxony. At the present time the arguments so clearly stated by Darwin in the work before us, have, after enduring opposition or neglect for a whole generation, begun to "triumph all along the line," and we may look forward confidently to the near future, when his claim to be regarded as one of the greatest of geological discoverers shall be fully vindicated.



Upraised shells of La Plata. Bahia Blanca, Sand-dunes and Pumice-pebbles. Step-formed plains of Patagonia, with upraised Shells. Terrace-bounded Valley of Santa Cruz, formerly a Sea-strait. Upraised shells of Tierra del Fuego. Length and breadth of the elevated area. Equability of the movements, as shown by the similar heights of the plains. Slowness of the elevatory process. Mode of formation of the step-formed plains. Summary. Great Shingle Formation of Patagonia; its extent, origin, and distribution. Formation of sea-cliffs.

In the following Volume, which treats of the geology of South America, and almost exclusively of the parts southward of the Tropic of Capricorn, I have arranged the chapters according to the age of the deposits, occasionally departing from this order, for the sake of geographical simplicity.

The elevation of the land within the recent period, and the modifications of its surface through the action of the sea (to which subjects I paid particular attention) will be first discussed; I will then pass on to the tertiary deposits, and afterwards to the older rocks.

South American Geology Page 08

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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