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.



Theory of the Earth

Author: James Hutton[1]

Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, vol. 1, Part 2, 1788, pp. 209–304. (2nd Ed., 1795)

Description: Hutton's Theory of the Earth; or an Investigation of the Laws observable in the Composition, Dissolution, and Restoration of Land upon the Globe was the 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".

Importance: Topic creator, Breakthrough, Influence

Principles of Geology

Author: Charles Lyell[2]


Description: 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.

Importance: Topic creator, Breakthrough. Charles Darwin frequently acknowledged his deep debt to this book.[3]

Online version: Online version at

Economic geology

Ore Deposits of the United States, 1933–1967: the Graton-Sales volume

Editor John D. Ridge

AIME, New York, 1968. Two volumes.

Description: Descriptions of major ore deposits[where?]. Updates the earlier Lindgren volume.

Importance: A basic reference work for all economic geologists



Report on the Geology of the Henry Mountains

Author: Grove Karl Gilbert
U.S.G.S. Professional Paper, 1877[4]
Description: In this work, 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[5] (the Henry Mountains being located in a remote part of Utah) and a description of its formation as a laccolith.
Importance: Topic creator


Geomagnetism (2 volumes)

Author: Sydney Chapman and Julius Bartels
Volume 1: Geomagnetic and Related Phenomena ASIN B002K07MAO, OCLC 499431969
Volume 2: Analysis of the Data and Physical Theories ASIN B0020TCMR8, OCLC 458641769
Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1940
Volume 6 of The International Series of Monographs on Physics
Description: 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.[6]
Importance: Its comprehensive summaries made it the standard reference on geomagnetism and the ionosphere for at least 2 decades.[7]

Geotechnical engineering

Theoretical Soil Mechanics

Author: Karl von Terzaghi
John Wiley and Sons, New York, 1943


The Public Fountains of the City of Dijon.

Author: Henry Darcy, English translation by Patricia Bobeck
Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co., 1856 (reprint ISBN 0-7575-0540-6).

Mineralogy and petrology

Textbook on Mineralogy

Title: De Natura Fossilium
Author: Georg Frederick Agricola, translated from Latin by Mark Chance Bandy and Jean Bandy[8]
Year: 1564
Republished by the Geological Society of America
Description: Systematic treatise of then known minerals and gemstones as well as other rocks.
Importance: The first systematic mineralogical treatise since Pliny's Natural History.

The Evolution of the Igneous Rocks

Author: Norman L. Bowen
Year: 1928
Importance: Breakthrough, influence

Rock-Forming Minerals

Author: W. A. Deer, R. A. Howie and J. Zussman
Year: 1962–63
Description: 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. It is the complete work from which the much beloved, student-friendly version, An Introduction to the Rock-Forming Minerals by the same authors, is based.
Importance: Influence, advanced reference.

Metamorphic Phase Equilibria and Pressure-Temperature-Time Paths

Author: Frank S. Spear
Year: 1993
Description: Presents the thermodynamic basis for modern, quantitative petrology and systematically reviews metamorphism for most rock types. Popularly also known as the "big blue book".
Importance: Influence, advanced reference.

Petroleum geology

Atlas of seismic stratigraphy

Authors: P. R. Vail
(ISBN 0-941809-03-X)
Importance: Original work on seismic sequence stratigraphy

Plate tectonics

The Origin of Continents and Oceans

Author: Alfred Wegener
Year: 1915
Description: Die Entstehung der Kontinente und Ozeane was the first 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.
Importance: Topic creator, Breakthrough, Influence

Sedimentology and stratigraphy

De solido intra solidum naturaliter contento dissertationis prodromus (Of Solids Naturally Contained Within Solids)

Author: Steno, Nicolaus[9] (Stensen, Niels),
Firenze, 79p, 1669.

Einleitung in die Geologie als historische Wissenschaft. Beobachtung über die Bildung der Gesteine und ihrer organischen Einschlüsse

Author: Walther, Johannes,
G. Fischer, Jena, 1055p, 1893.

Petrology of Sedimentary Rocks

Author: R.L. Folk
Year: 1965
Description: The basis for the widely used Folk classification for clastic and carbonate rocks
Importance: Influence

Structural geology

Folding and fracturing of rocks

Author: J. G. Ramsay
McGraw–Hill, 1967
Importance: Began a whole school of structural geology that used the techniques of continuum mechanics to understand rock structures.


Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology

Founder/1st Editor: Raymond C. Moore
Geological Society of America/University of Kansas Press, 1953 onwards
Description: 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.
Importance: Influence. A standard reference work in paleontology.


Quantitative Seismology

Author: Keiiti Aki, Paul G. Richards Year: 1980

Description: Chapters outline basic theorems in dynamic elasticity, representation of seismic sources, elastic waves from a point dislocation, plane waves in homogeneous media and their reflection and transmission at a plane boundary, reflection and refraction of spherical waves; Lamb's problem, surface waves in a vertically heterogeneous medium, free oscillations of the Earth, body waves in media with depth-dependent properties, the seismic source: kinematics, the seismic source: dynamics, and principles of seismometry

Importance: This is the basic textbook used by theoretical seismologists

Weak elastic anisotropy

Author: Leon Thomsen

Geophysics, 51(10), 1954–1966, 1986

Description: In his paper, Thomsen defined a version of elastic anisotropy using transversely istoropic media that could be analyzed through the use of his Thomsen parameters. Importance: Influential. Most cited paper in the history of geophysics.



Letters of Pliny the Younger to the Historian Tacitus, 6th Book, Letter 16

Author: Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus, Pliny the Younger
Year: 79 CE
Description: This letter 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.
Importance: Topic creator

The 1980 Eruptions of Mount St. Helens, Washington

Author: Peter W. Lipman and Donal R. Mullineaux (editors)
USGS Professional Paper 1250, Washington D.C., 1981
Description: 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.
Importance: Breakthrough

See also

  • Category:Geology books


  1. ^ Mather & Mason 1967, pp. 92–100
  2. ^ Mather & Mason 1967, pp. 263–273
  3. ^ 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."
  4. ^ Mather & Mason 1967, pp. 586-596
  5. ^ Heath, Steven H. (1997). "A Historical Sketch of the Scientific Exploration of the Region Containing the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument". Bureau of Land Management Science Symposium. Retrieved 2009-07-05. 
  6. ^ European Geosciences Union. "Awards & Medals: Julius Bartels". Retrieved September 2011. 
  7. ^ Akasofu, Syun-Ichi (2011). "The Scientific Legacy of Sydney Chapman". EOS 92 (34): 281–282. Bibcode 2011EOSTr..92..281A. doi:10.1029/2011EO340001. 
  8. ^ Mather & Mason 1967, pp. 7–11
  9. ^ Mather & Mason 1967, pp. 33–44

Further reading

Published compilations of publications in geology

Web resources

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