Text unformatted | Images to be added [CD-Rom Home]

Full PDF online at Internet Archive

Essay on the Theory of the Earth

Georges Cuvier

BY M. Cuvier, PERPETUAL SECRETARY OF THE FRENCH INSTITUTE, PROFESSOR AND ADMINISTRATOR OF THE MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY, WITH MIJYERdLOGICdL NOTES, AND AN ACCOUNT OF CUVIER'S GEOLOGICAL DISCOVERIES, BY PROFESSOR JAMESON. TO WHICH ARE NOW ADDERS, ^ ?"',*; I OBSERVATIONS ON THE GEOLOGY OF NORTH AMERICA; ILLUSTRATED BY THE DESCRIPTION OF VARIOUS ORGANIC REMAINS, FOUND IN THAT PART OF THE WORLD. BY SAMUEL L. MITCHILL, Eotan. Mineral, et Zoolog. in Univere, Nov. Eborac. Prof. &c. &c. PUBLISHED BY KIRK & MERCEIN, KO. 22 WALL-STREET. Priutd by W. A.Merceih, ^o. 93 Geid-Street. 18*8. . EARTH SCIENCE^1 ".." **. .* Southern District of New-York, s, * BE IT REMEMBERED, that on the sixteenth day of February, in the fortysecond year of the Independence of the United States of America, Kirk & Mercein, of the said District, have deposited in this office the title of a Book, the right whereof they claim as Proprietors, in the words following, to wit ; " Essay on the Theory of the Earth. By M. Cuvier, Perpetual Secretary of the French Institute, Professor and Administrator of the Museum of Natural History, &c. &c. With Mineralogical Notes, and an Account of Cuvier's Geological Discoveries, by Professor Jameson. To which are now added, Observations on the Geology of North America ; illustrated by the Description of various Organic Remains, found in that part of the world. By Samuel L. Mitchill, Botan. Mineral, et Zoolog. in Umrers. Nov. Eborac. Prof. &c. &c." In conformity to the Act of the Congress of the United States, entitled " An Act for the encouragement of Learning, by securing the copies of Maps, Charts, and Books to the authors and proprietors of such copies, during the time therein mentioned." And also to an Act, entitled " An Act, supplementary to an Act, entitled an Act for the encouragement of Learning, by securing the copies of Maps, Charts, and Books to the authors and proprietors of such copies, during the times therein mentioned, and extending the benefits thereof to the arts of designing, engraving, and etching historical and other prints." JAMES DILL, Clerk of the Southern District of Now-York. . PREFACE. THE attention of naturalists was early directed to the investigation of the fossil organic remains so generally and abundantly distributed throughout the strata of which the crust of the earth is composed. It is not, as some writers now imagine, entirely a modern study ; for even so early as the time of Leibnitz, we find that philosopher drawing and describing fossil bones. After this period it continued to interest individuals, and engage the particular attention of societies and academies. The Royal Society of London, by the Memoirs of Sloane, Collinson ? Lister, Derham, Baker, Grew, Hunter, Jacobs, Plott, Camper, and many others, afforded satisfactory proofs of the importance attached M807C6 . VI PREFACE. to this branch of natural history by philosophers in England ; and the : Memoirs of M. Graydon, in the Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy, show that it was not entirely neglected in Ireland. On the continent of Europe the natural history of petrifactions was also much studied, as appears from the Memoirs of Holluian, Beckman, and Blumenbach, in the Transactions of the Royal Society of Gottingen ; of Gmelin, Pallas, Herrmann, Chappe, in the Memoirs of the Imperial Academy of Science of Petersburg!! ; of Geoffroi, Buffon, Daubenton, Faujas, St. Fond, and others of the old French Academy of Sciences ; of A^sturc and Riviere, of the Royal Academy of Sciences of Montpellier ; of Collini, of the Academia Theodoro- Palatina, at Manheim, $c. But the geognostical relations of the rocks in which these organic remains are contained were but ill understood, until Werner pointed out the mode of investigating them. His interesting and important views* were circulated from Freyberg, * See Note L. . PREFACE. Vli by the writings and conversations of his pupils, and have contributed materially to the advancement of this branch of natural history in Germany, France, and also in Great Britain. Petrifactions are no longer viewed as objects of mere curiosity, as things isolated and unrelated to the rocks of which the crust of the earth is composed ; on the contrary, they are now considered as one of the most important features in the strata of all regions of the earth. By the regularity and determinate nature of their distribution, they afford characters which assist us in discriminating not only single beds, but also whole formations of rocks ; and in this respect they are highly interesting to the geognostical inquirer. To the geologist this beautiful branch of natural history opens up numerous and uncommonly curious views of nature in the mineral kingdom: it shows him the commencement of the formation of organic beings, it points out the gradual succession in the formation of animals, from the almost primseval coral near the primitive strata, through all the wonderful variety of form and structure . V1U PREFACE. observed in shells, fishes, amphibious animals, and birds, to the perfect quadruped of the alluvial land ; and it makes him acquainted with a geographical and physical distribution of organic beings in the strata of the globe very different from what is observed to hold in the present state of the organic world. The zoologist views with wonder and amazement those hosts of fossil animals, sometimes so similar to the present living species, at other times so far removed from them in form and structure. He compares the fossil orders, genera, and species with those now inhabiting the earth's surface, or living in its waters, and discovers that there is a whole system of animals in a fossil state different from the present. Even the physiologist, in the various forms, connexions, and relations of the parts of those animals, obtains new facts for his descriptions and reasonings. Such, then, being the nature of this branch of natural history, it is not surprising that, when once understood, it should have many and zealous cultivators, and occupy the talents of men of learning and sagacity. In . PREFACE. IX our time, Cuvier, the celebrated Professor of Natural History in Paris, has eminently distinguished himself by his numerous discoveries, accurate descriptions, and rational views in this subject. His work on Fossil Organic Remains, of which we have given an account in the following Illustrations, will always remain a monument worthy of its author. The Essay on the Theory of the Earth, now translated, is the introductory part of the great work of Cuvier. The subject of the deluge forms a principal object of this elegant discourse. After describing the principal results at which the theory of the earth, in his opinion, has arrived, he next mentions the various relations which connect the history of the fossil bones of land animals with these results; explains the principles on which is founded the art of ascertaining these bones, or, in other words, of discovering a genus, and of distinguishing a species, by a single fragment of bone ; and gives a rapid sketch of the results to which 2 . X PREFACE. his researches lead, of the new genera and species which these have been the means of discovering, and of the different formations in which they are contained. Some naturalists, as La Mark, having maintained that the present existing races of quadrupeds are mere modifications or varieties of those ancient races which we now find in a fossil state, modifications which may have been produced by change of climate, and other local circumstances, and since brought to the present great difference by the operation of similar causes during a long succession of ages, Cuvier shows that the difference between the fossil species and those which now exist, is bounded by certain limits ; that these limits are a great deal more extensive than those which now distinguish the varieties of the same species ; and, consequently, that the extinct species of quadrupeds are not varieties of the present existing species. This very interesting discussion naturally leads our author to state the proofs of the recent population of the world; of the comparatively . PREFACE. Xi modern origin of its present surface ; of the deluge, and the subsequent renewal of human society. In order to render this Essay more complete and satisfactory, I have illustrated the whole with an extensive series of observations, and have arranged them in such a manner that they will be readily accessible, not only to the naturalist, but also to the general reader. Since the publication of the former edition of this Essay, many curious discoveries have been made in regard to fossil organic remains ; some of these are included in the Illustrations at the end of the Essay, others \yant of room forces us to omit. But we cannot allow the present opportunity to pass, without briefly describing that remarkable fossil animal already noticed in a very cursory manner in page 266, as we are now enabled to present the English reader with a representation of it from a drawing of Sommerring, in the Denkschriften . Xil PREFACE. der Koniglichen Academic der Wissenschaften zu Munchen, for 1811 and 181&, which has just reached this country. The fossil animal there represented was found many years ago in the limestone quarries of Aechstedt, and described by the late Collini in the 5th volume of the Actorum Academic Theodoro-Palatinse. He considered it as an extraordinary species of fish. Cuvier, from an inspection of the plate of Collini, was of opinion that it was an amphibious animal; Blumenbach was inclined to view it as a webbfooted bird ; and now Sommerring has ascertained, from an actual inspection of the specimen itself, that its characters are very different from those of birds, amphibious animals, or fishes, but agree with those of animals of the class mammalia ; in this opinion coinciding with that advanced by a sagacious and profound naturalist, Hermann. It is named by Sommerring ornithocephalus antiquus, from the resemblance of its head to that of a bird. . PREFACE. Xlll It appears to form one of a series of animals intermediate between the class mammalia and class aves. In the scale of nature, its place appears to be between flying quadrupeds and birds, Und certainly it has a more close resemblance to birds than the famed ornithorynchus,or duck-billed quadruped of New Holland. The skeleton represented in the plate is about 10 inches 4 lines long, and appears somewhat compressed and distorted, owing to the contraction and pressure of the limestone in which it is contained. Sommerring is of opinion that it is a flying quadruped analogous to the bat ; and of all the families of the genus, most nearly allied to that named pteropus. It differs from the pteropi, however, in having four toes in place of five ; and in the circumstance of one only of the toes of the fore feet being elongated, whereas in the pteropi, four of the toes are elongated, one only being short. The cranium is uncommonly small, the orbits of enormous magnitude, and the jaws longer than the body, and provided with sharp and . XIV PREFACE. slightly bent teeth. The neck is the length of the body, and, like that of most mammiferous animals, composed of seven vertebrae. There are four legs, on each leg four toes, and all of them provided with claws. In the fore legs one of the toes is very much elongated, the other three are short ; the hinder legs are also of considerable length, and provided with toes, which are longer than those upon the fore feet. There are no tarsal bones, only metatarsal bones and claws; the tarsal bones appear to have been of a softer nature, and may have been destroyed. There is a distinct tail. The head, in its general form, very much resembles that of birds of the genus scolopax of Linnaeus. From the magnitude of the orbits, it would seem that this animal must have had very large eyes. The small, sharp, and slightly bent teeth, and wide mouth, would intimate that the animal did not live on plants, but rather on large insects, which it would be enabled to catch while on the wing. The great thickness and length of the toe of the fore foot, show . XVlll CONTENTS. 19. Of former Systems of Geology..................... ....... 57 20. Diversities of the Geological Systems, and their Causes 63 21. Statement of the Nature and Conditions of the Problem to be solved........................ . ..................... 64 22. Of the Progress of Mineral Geology..................... 67 23. Of the Importance of Extraneous Fossils, or Petrifactions, in Geology................. . ..................... 6-9 24. High importance of investigating the Fossil Remains of Quadrupeds. ............................................ 71 25. Of the small Probability of discovering new Species of the larger Quadrupeds................................ 74 26. Inquiry respecting the Fabulous Animals ofthe Ancients 85 27. Of the Difficulty of distinguishing the Fossil Bones of Quadrupeds............................................. 97 28. Results of the Researches respecting the Fossil Bones of (Quadrupeds ............. ..... ........ . ............. ... 109 29. Relations of the Species of Fossil Bones, with the Stra- . ta in which they are found ......... . ................... Ill -30. Proofs that the extinct Species of Quadrupeds are not Varieties of the present existing Species ............ 118 31. Proofs of the recent Population of the World, and that its present Surface is not of very ancient Formation 133 32. Proofs that there are no Human Bones in the Fossil State ...................................................... 120 *32. Proofs from Traditions, of a great Catastrophe, and subsequent Renewal of Human Society.............. 145 33. Proofs derived from several Miscellaneous Considerations ............................................. . ...... .. 161 34. Concluding Reflections .................. , ................. 165 SUPPLEMENT, being an Extract from the Researches of M. de Prony, on the Hydraulic System of Italy ; containing an Account of the Displacement of that Part of the Coast of the Adriatic which is occupied by the Mouths of the Po.................. , ........... 175 . CONTENTS. XIX MINERALOGICAL NOTES AND ILLUSTRATIONS. BY PROFESSOR JAMESON. PAGE A. On the Subsidence of Strata 187 B. On Primitive Rocks 188 C. Crystallized Marbles resting on Shelly Strata 190 D. Ro]led Masses upon the Mountains of Jura..... ib, E. Salisbury Craigs *. 191 F. On the Alluvial Land of the Danish Islands in the Baltic, and on the Coast of Sleswick.. ib. GeestLand. 192 Marsch Lands 194 Great Rise of the Ocean 197 Frisian Colony ib. Enclosing the Marsches 198 Uniting the Islands.... 199 Building of Dikes ., 202 G. On the Sand Flood 205 H. Action of the Sea upon Coasts..* 208 I. On Coral Islands 210 K. On the Diminution of the Waters of the Ocean 214 L. Werner's Views of the Natural History of Petrifactions 217 M. On the Distribution of Petrifactions in the Different Classes of Rocks 219 TRANSITION ROCKS. 1. Transition Limestone , ib. 2. Greywacke , 220 3. Clay Slate ib. 4. Greywacke Slate ,,,,..,.,. * ,....., ib. . XX CONTENTS. FLCETZ BOCKS. PAGF I. First Sandstone 221 II. First Floetz Limestone 222 1. Alpine Limestone ib. .2. Bituminous Marl Slate ib. 3. Zechstein 223 4. Coal ib. III. Second red or variegated Sandstone 224 IV. Second Floetz Limestone 225 V. Third Flcetz Limestone 226 VI. Chalk Formation 229 VII. Flcetz Trap Rocks 232 VIII. Newest Floetz Trap ib. IX. Newest Floetz Formations 233 X. Alluvial Formations ib. M. CUVIER'S GEOLOGICAL DISCOVERIES. Mineralogy of Paris 238 I* . . . m . . ^ ' Fossil Organic Remains described by Cuvier, arranged in a Systematic Order. CLASS. MAMMALIA. ORDER. DIGITATA. Family. Glires. Genera. Cavia ..*.. 240 Mus ., ib. Family. Ferae. Genera. Ursus ........ 241 Cam's... 243 Felis ib. Viverra,. ,,,,,,,...,,,,,.,,.....,.,. ib. . CONTENTS. XX1U PAGE Plastic Clay Formation 273 Marine Limestone Formation 274 First System of Strata ib. Second System of Strata 275 Third System of Strata 276 Fourth System of Strata 277 Siliceous Limestone without Shells ib. Gypsum Formation and Marine Marl 278 Sandstone and Sand without Shells 285 Upper Marine Sandstone and Sand ib. Millstone without Shells 286 Flint and Siliceous Limestone 288 Alluvial 291 General Observations 292 MINERALOGY OF THE SOUTH OF ENGLAND. 1. Isle of Wight Basin 296 2. London Basin ib. FORMATIONS. Chalk 296 1. Lower Marine Formation, including the Sand and Plastic Clay and the London or Blue Clay 297 2. Lower Fresh Water Formation 303 3. Upper Marine Formation 304 4. Upper Fresh Water Formation 307 5. Alluvial Formations 308 Formations above Chalk 311 Formations below Chalk 313 Letter from Mr. Marsden to Professor Jameson 316