Paper No. 16
Presentation Time: 4:45 PM
KIRTLEY MATHER'S SOURCEBOOKS OF GEOLOGY 1400-1900 (1939) AND 1900-1950 (1967)
Sourcebooks provide bibliographical materials relating to many of the leading figures in the history of science and insights into how the individuals’ works were integrated into the discipline at the time of publication and thereafter. The Sourcebook series began in the 1920s among philosophers, historians, and scientists. According to Kennard Bork's biography (1994), Kirtley Mather (1888-1978) had been using historical materials in teaching geology at Harvard for some years before he was recruited to do the Sourcebook on Geology (1939) covering 1400 to 1900. His coeditor, Shirley Mason, a Houston oilman, had been a Mather student and was a full partner in the work. They canvassed about 125 colleagues for ideas on what to include, and selected 182 excerpts in the 702 page book. All entries were skillfully translated into English. Bork argues that this book helped define the field of history of geology, although Mather and Mason cite Karl von Zittel's and other earlier histories as important too. The second Sourcebook in Geology, published in 1967 (435 pages), covered the period 1900-1950 and was Mather's alone, although he again solicited ideas from over 100 colleagues. This book was more problematic. It omitted paleontology, including the "modern synthesis" with genetics, at the insistence of the Sourcebook general editor. But Mather himself decided to slight continental drift. Wegener is mentioned only twice, and then only as citations in the works of others, once in connection with climate and a second with respect to Greenland. Mather did include excerpts from several papers that tangentially relate to drift, namely David Griggs' paper (1940) and Vening-Meinesz (1947) but he cites Arthur Holmes only in several footnotes and none with respect to Holmes’ early thoughts about mantle convection currents as a mechanism for continental drift. Following the period covered by the 1900-1950 Sourcebook, Mather did accept plate tectonics (per. com., K. Bork).