List of important publications in geology

This is a list of important publications in geology, organized by field.

Some reasons why a particular publication might be regarded as important:

  • Topic creator A publication that created a new topic
  • Breakthrough A publication that changed scientific knowledge significantly
  • Influence A publication which has significantly influenced the world or has had a massive impact on the teaching of geology.

Compilations of important publications can be found in Further reading.


  • Steno, Nicolas (1669). Dissertationis prodromus.
Established the following stratigraphical principles: law of superposition, principle of original horizontality, principle of lateral continuity and the principle of cross-cutting relationships
First publication to clearly articulate the principle of deep time, and to recognize that rocks record the evidence of the past action of processes which still operate today. These ideas were to grow into the idea of Uniformitarianism. Hutton is widely regarded as the "Father of Modern Geology".
Hutton's book is widely regarded as unreadable, and may have remained obscure if not for this work by the brilliant prose stylist John Playfair.[3]
The work's subtitle was "An Attempt to Explain the Former Changes of the Earth's Surface by Reference to Causes now in Operation", and this explains Lyell's impact on science: he was, along with the earlier John Playfair, the major advocate of the then-controversial idea of uniformitarianism, that the Earth was shaped entirely by slow-moving forces acting over a very long period of time. This was in contrast to catastrophism, a geologic idea that went hand-in-hand with the age of the Earth suggested by biblical chronology. In various revised editions (twelve in all, through 1872), Principles of Geology was the most influential geological work in the middle of the 19th century, and did much to put geology on a modern footing. Charles Darwin frequently acknowledged his deep debt to this book.[5]

Economic geology

  • Lindgren, W. (1933) Mineral Deposits. 930 pp. McGraw-Hill, New York.
  • Ridge, John D., ed. (1968). Ore Deposits of the United States, 1933-1967. Society for Mining Metallurgy. ISBN 978-0895200082.
Descriptions of major ore deposits in USA. Updates the earlier Lindgren volume. A basic reference work for economic geologists
  • Pohl, W.L., 2011. Economic Geology, Principles and Practice: Metals, Minerals, Coal and Hydrocarbons – an Introduction to Formation and Sustainable Exploitation of Mineral Deposits. 663 Pages, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford. ISBN 978-1444336627


Laid the foundations of geochemistry, including the Goldschmidt classification elements.
  • Faure, Gunter (1977). Principles of Isotope Geology. New York: Wiley. ISBN 9780471256656.
A highly cited guide to the use of isotope geochemistry in solving geological problems, and the methods involved. Has been cited more than 3200 times. A second edition was published in 1986. A third edition, with Teresa M. Mensing, was published in 2005, under the title Isotopes: Principles and Applications.


The speech recorded by this volume of Transactions represents the final version of the theory of the age of the Earth which Thomson has been refining since 1862. In it, he proposed that the age of the Earth was "more than 20 and less than 40 million year old, and probably much nearer 20 than 40".[6] His analysis was based on the time it would take the Earth to cool from a completely molten state, and his estimate was consistent with a number of other physical estimates from, amongst others, George Darwin, Hermann von Helmholtz, and Simon Newcomb. This strikingly young age put Thomson in direct conflict with both Uniformitarian geologists and evolutionary biologists, both of whose theories required much longer spans of time to take effect.[7] This paradox of the age of the Earth was resolved only by fuller understanding of the roles of convection and radioactivity in the planet's interior in the early 20th century, and it required understanding of thermonuclear fusion in the Sun developed only in the 1930s to fully explain the stability of the whole solar system over multi-billion year timescales.[8]
With this work based on his thesis Holmes describes the first accurate uranium-lead radiometric dating (specifically designed to measure the age of a rock), assigning an age of 370 Ma to a Devonian rock from Norway, improving on the work of Boltwood who published nothing more on the subject.
  • De Geer, G. (1912). A geochronology of the last 12000 years. Congr. Géol. Int. Stockholm 1910, C.R., 241-253.
In the 1910 International Geological Congress held in Stockholm Gerard De Geer presented to international community his research on glacial lake varves showing that they represented annual layers and were useful in the study of deglaciation.


In 1837, Agassiz was the first to scientifically propose that the Earth had been subject to a past ice age.[9] This book lays out his theories in print. It represents his theories that vast areas of northern Europe had in the past been covered in ice, extending down to the Caspian and Mediterranean seas. The book represents the birth of the fields of glaciology and glacial geomorphology.[10]
  • Gilbert, Grove Karl (1877). Report on the Geology of the Henry Mountains (Report). United States Geological Survey Professional Paper.[1]:586596
G. K. Gilbert lays the groundwork for many ideas in modern geomorphology, such as the diffusive profiles of hillslopes and the formation of pediments. In addition to its geomorphic significance, it is a description of the last major mountain range to be mapped by Europeans in the contiguous United States.[11] (the Henry Mountains being located in a remote part of Utah) and a description of its formation as a laccolith.
Founding work on karst geomorphology. The study focus on karst phenomena in the Balcans. Albrecht Penck was Cvijić's PhD advisor.
In his 1899 publication William Morris Davis outlines in detail the cycle of erosion model laying the foundations for the study of peneplains, relief development and denudation chronology.
  • Łozinski, W. (1912). Die periglaziale fazies der mechanischen Verwitterung. Comptes Rendus, XI Congres Internationale Geologie, Stockholm 1910.
In this work Walery Łoziński publishes his presentation at the 1910 International Geological Congress held in Stockholm and establishes periglacial geomorphology as a new field of study.
  • Penck, Walther (1924). Die morphologische Analyse [Morphological Analysis of Landforms].
This work of Walther Penck challenges the cycle of erosion theory of Davis by proposing for the first time a comprehensive alternative model to landscape evolution. The work was published posthumously by his father Albrecht Penck.[12]
  • Hjulström, Filip (1935). Studies of the morphological activity of rivers as illustrated by the River Fyris (Inaugural Dissertation). Almqvist & Wiksells.
With this work Filip Hjulström marks a shift towards quantitative geomorphology and process geomorphology in Sweden and Europe. The publication is founding stone of the Uppsala School of Physical Geography. It influences the Ph.D. students of Hjulström Anders Rapp, Valter Axelsson, Åke Sundborg and John O. Norrman.
Laid the foundations of the scientific investigation of the transport of sand by wind.[13]
In this book King establishes for the first time the major landform of Africa namely the African Surface. Subsequently the concept would be expanded and modified. King did also argued for scarp retreat and pediplanation in the book.
  • Hack, John Tilton (1960). Interpretation of erosional topography in humid temperate regions. Bobbs-Merrill.
Championed the concept of dynamic equilibrium in geomorphology.[14]
  • Rapp, A. (1960). "Recent development of mountain slopes in Kärkevagge and surroundings, northern Scandinavia". Geografiska Annaler. 42 (2): 65–200.
One of the first measurements of chemical erosion and one of the first quantitative assessments on the relative role of chemical and mechanical weathering in cold climates.
  • Stoddart, D.R. (1969). "Climatic geomorphology: Review and reassesment". Progress in Geography. 1: 159–222.
An article by Stoddart that proved "devastating" for the field of climatic geomorphology that has been credited for the decline in the popularity in field the late 20th century.[15][16]


A classic reference on the Earth's magnetic field and related topics in meteorology, solar and lunar physics, the aurora, techniques of spherical harmonic analysis and treatment of periodicities in geophysical data.[17] Its comprehensive summaries made it the standard reference on geomagnetism and the ionosphere for at least 2 decades.[18]

Geotechnical engineering


  • Darcy, Henry (1856). The Public Fountains of the City of Dijon. English translation by Patricia Bobeck (reprint ed.). Kendall/Hunt. ISBN 978-0-7575-0540-9.

Mineralogy and petrology

  • Agricola, Georgius (2004). De Natura Fossilium [On the Nature of Fossils] (in Latin). Translated from the first Latin edition of 1546 by Mark Chance Bandy and Jean A. Bandy. Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications. ISBN 9780486495910.
Systematic treatise of then known minerals and gemstones as well as other rocks, the first since Pliny's Natural History.
  • Eskola, P. (1920). The Mineral Facies of Rocks. Norsk Geologisk Tidsskrift. 6. pp. 143–194.[19]:151159
Established the concept of metamorphic facies.
Originally published in 1928, it applied the principles of chemistry to petrological problems.[20]
A condensation of Rock-Forming Minerals (1962), a 5-volume comprehensive treatise of the physical, chemical, mineralogical, petrological and optical properties of essentially all minerals with nontrivial abundances to be found in terrestrial rocks. Also presents information regarding common origins and associations of each mineral, as well as a practical commentary on how to distinguish each mineral from others which may appear similar.
Igneous Petrogenesis has long been a key reference and advanced introductory book to the science of igneous petrology.
  • Spear, Frank S. (1995). Metamorphic phase equilibria and pressure-temperature-time paths (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: Mineralogical Soc. of America. ISBN 978-0-939950-34-8.
Originally published in 1993; presents the thermodynamic basis for modern, quantitative petrology and systematically reviews metamorphism for most rock types. Popularly also known as the "big blue book".

Petroleum geology

  • Vail, P. R.; Mitchum Jr., R. M.; Todd, R. G.; Widmier, J. M.; Thompson, S.; Sangree, J. B.; et al. (1977). "Seismic stratigraphy and global changes in sea level". In Payton, C. E. (ed.). Seismic StratigraphyApplications to hydrocarbon exploration, AAPG Memoir. 26. Tulsa: American Association of Petroleum Geologists. pp. 49–205.
Original work on seismic sequence stratigraphy.[21][22]

Plate tectonics

First book to marshall considerable geological evidence that the continents are mobile relative to each other around the North Atlantic (mainly). It uses Evan Hopkins booklet (On the connection of geology with terrestrial magnetism, 1844), but adapts its data to a plutonist point-of-view.
First book to show geological evidence that some continents were linked with each other: Suess set out his belief that across geologic time, the rise and fall of sea levels were mappable across the earth—that is, that the periods of ocean transgression and regression were correlateable from one continent to another. His theory was based upon glossopteris fern fossils occurring in South America, Africa, and India. His explanation was that the three lands were once connected in a supercontinent, which he named Gondwána-Land (nowadays usually written Gondwanaland). However Suess mistakenly believed that the oceans flooded the spaces currently between those lands.
Moreover, Suess expressed views in this book on the connection between Africa and Europe. Eventually, he concluded that the Alps to the north were once at the bottom of an ocean, of which the Mediterranean was a remnant. Suess was not correct in his analysis, which was predicated upon the notion of "contractionism"—the idea that the Earth is cooling down and, therefore, contracting. Nevertheless, he is credited with postulating the earlier existence of the Tethys Ocean, which he named in 1893.
Suess also introduced in this book the concept of the biosphere, which was later extended by Vladimir I. Vernadsky in 1926.[23]
Die Entstehung der Kontinente und Ozeane was the second book to marshall considerable geological evidence that the continents are mobile relative to each other on the surface of the Earth. His theory was based upon numerous matches between the topography, paleontology and past climate of continents now separated by oceans. At the time of publication his ideas were not taken seriously by most of the geological community as he could not provide a mechanism for continental motion, but his ideas form the foundations of the modern theory of plate tectonics.

Sedimentology and stratigraphy

  • Steno, Nicolaus (1669). De solido intra solidum naturaliter contento dissertationis prodromus [Of Solids Naturally Contained Within Solids] (in Latin). Firenze.[1]:3344
First statement of three fundamental laws of geology: the law of superposition, the principle of original horizontality, and the principle of cross-cutting relationships.[24]:9
The basis for the widely used folk classification for clastic and carbonate rocks
Provided new evidence and revived interest for the Precambrian world-wide glaciations.

Structural geology

Began a whole school of structural geology that used the techniques of continuum mechanics to understand rock structures.[25]


  • Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology. Geological Society of America and University of Kansas Press. 1953–. Check date values in: |date= (help)
A definitive multi-authored work of some 50 volumes, written by more than 300 paleontologists, and still a work in progress. It covers every phylum, class, order, family, and genus of fossil and extant (still living) invertebrate animals. Raymond C. Moore was the founder and first editor.[26]


Defined a version of elastic anisotropy using transversely isotropic media that could be analyzed through the use of Thomsen parameters. Most cited paper in the history of geophysics.


  • Scholz, Christopher H. (1994). The mechanics of earthquakes and faulting. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press. ISBN 9780521407601.
An influential review of fault properties, dynamics and growth, how they fail, and how this links to seismology. Highly cited (>2700 citations).
The first paper to lay out the now widely accepted model for formation of sedimentary basins by tectonic stretching of the lithosphere (mechanical thinning), followed by lowering of the basin by the cooling of upwelled, hot asthenosphere at depth below it (isostatic deepening). Highly cited (>2200 citations).


Contains the first detailed description of a volcanic eruption in western culture – the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in what is now known as a plinian eruption in 79 CE.[28]
  • Lipman, Peter W.; Mullineaux, Donal R., eds. (1981). The 1980 Eruptions of Mount St. Helens, Washington. USGS Professional Paper 1250. Washington. D. C.: United States Geological Survey.
The 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington state, USA, allowed volcanologists to document first hand a large number of volcanic processes which hitherto had been only inferred. It spurred a revitalization of the whole discipline of volcanology. This anthology of papers was amongst the first to present new data gained during the eruption.

See also


  1. Mather & Mason 1967
  2. Dean, Dennis R. (1992). James Hutton and the history of geology. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. pp. 30–83. ISBN 9780801426667.
  3. Gould, Stephen Jay (2001). Time's arrow time's cycle : myth and metaphor in the discovery of geological time (11th print. ed.). Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press. p. 61. ISBN 9780674891999.
  4. Online facsimile
  5. From the dedication in Voyage of the Beagle: TO CHARLES LYELL, ESQ., F.R.S.: This Second Edition Is Dedicated with Grateful Pleasure, As an Acknowledgment That the Chief Part of Whatever Scientific Merit This Journal and the Other Works of the Author May Possess, Has Been Derived from Studying the Well-Known and Admirable PRINCIPLES OF GEOLOGY."
  6. Dalrymple, G. Brent. The age of the Earth. Stanford University Press, 1994. pp. 14, 43
  7. Dalrymple, 1994, p. 14-17.
  8. Stacey, Frank D. (2000). "Kelvin's age of the Earth paradox revisited". Journal of Geophysical Research. 105 (B6): 13155–13158. Bibcode:2000JGR...10513155S. doi:10.1029/2000JB900028.
  9. E.P. Evans: "The Authorship of the Glacial Theory", North American review Volume 145, Issue 368, July 1887. Accessed on February 25, 2008.
  10. "History of geology--Agassiz".
  11. Heath, Steven H. (November 4–5, 1997). "A Historical Sketch of the Scientific Exploration of the Region Containing the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument". In Hill, Linda M.; Koselak, Janine J. (eds.). Learning from the Land: Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Science Symposium Proceedings. Bureau of Land Management. p. 440. Archived from the original on 2012-10-06. Retrieved 2009-07-05.
  12. Orme, Anthony R. (2007). "The Rise and Fall of the Davisian Cycle of Erosion: Prelude, Fugue, Coda, and Sequel". Physical Geography. 28 (6): 474–506. doi:10.2747/0272-3646.28.6.474.
  13. Ball, Philip (2009). "In Retrospect: the physics of sand dunes". Nature. 457 (7233): 1084–1085. Bibcode:2009Natur.457.1084B. doi:10.1038/4571084a.
  14. Osterkamp, W.R.; Hupp, C.R. "Memorial to John T. Hack". Memorials. 23: 59–61.
  15. Thomas, Michael F. (2004). "Tropical geomorphology". In Goudie, A.S. (ed.). Encyclopedia of Geomorphology. pp. 1063–1069.
  16. Goudie, A.S. (2004). "Climatic geomorphology". In Goudie, A.S. (ed.). Encyclopedia of Geomorphology. pp. 162–164.
  17. "Julius Bartels". Retrieved 6 February 2017.
  18. Akasofu, Syun-Ichi (2011). "The Scientific Legacy of Sydney Chapman". EOS. 92 (34): 281–282. Bibcode:2011EOSTr..92..281A. doi:10.1029/2011EO340001.
  19. Mather 1967
  20. Yoder, Hatten Schuyler, ed. (2015). Evolution of the Igneous Rocks: Fiftieth Anniversary Perspectives. Princeton University Press. ISBN 9781400868506.
  21. Roberts, David G.; Bally, A., eds. (2008). Principles of regional geology (1st ed.). Amsterdam: Elsevier. p. 345. ISBN 9780444530424.
  22. Emery, Dominic; Myers, Keith, eds. (2009). Sequence Stratigraphy. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 3, 6. ISBN 9781444313703.
  23. Sengor, Thomas Hofman, Gunter Bloschl, Lois Lammerhuber, Werner E. Piller, A.M. Celal (2014). The face of the Earth : the legacy of Eduard Suess. Germany: European Geosciences Union. ISBN 978-3901753695.
  24. Cloud 1970
  25. Llana-Funez, S.; Marcos, A.; Bastida, F. (20 March 2014). "Deformation structures and processes within the continental crust: an introduction". Geological Society, London, Special Publications. 394 (1): 1–6. Bibcode:2014GSLSP.394....1L. doi:10.1144/SP394.13.
  26. Selden, P. A. (26 July 2012). "Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology: A work in progress". PALAIOS. 27 (7): 439–442. Bibcode:2012Palai..27..439S. doi:10.2110/palo.2012.SO4.
  27. Pliny the Younger (2006). Complete Letters. Translated by P. G. Walsh. Oxford. pp. 142–146, 150–151. ISBN 9780191604898.
  28. Jones, Nicholas F. (2001). "Pliny the Younger's Vesuvius "Letters" (6.16 and 6.20)". The Classical World. 95 (1): 31–48. doi:10.2307/4352621. JSTOR 4352621.

Further reading

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