GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 75-6
Presentation Time: 9:30 AM


HIRT, Paul W., School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies, Arizona State University, 2078 E Balboa Dr, Tempe, AZ 85282

The Grand Canyon has been an especially important place for the study of geology. Considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world and the planet’s foremost example of canyon-cutting erosion, geologists over the past 150 years have worked hard to unravel its mysteries. Geologists from around the world have been drawn to the Grand Canyon, many making important scientific discoveries and changing the way people understand our planet, how it was formed, and how it continues to change. Geological science in America developed in the late 19th century intertwined with American imperial ambitions and cultural values, such as the idea of Manifest Destiny, a belief that it was the divine right and duty of the United States to spread its empire from the Atlantic to the Pacific. As a result, the U.S. government sent many famous scientific expeditions into the great expanses of the American West, and for a time, the Grand Canyon became one of the most important sources of geological study in the world. Many theories about erosion, tectonics, and deep time were proffered, tested, and revised in studies conducted at Grand Canyon. The story of how we came to understand the geological history of Grand Canyon is a story of the scientific method, of scientific progress, and of science as a human endeavor embedded in culture and context.