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No. 12: Fall 1980

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The Rehabilitation Of Cuvier

Cuvier (1769-1832) was a catastrophist. To him, the record of death in the layers of fossiliferous rocks was obviously the consequence of terrestrial convulsions. But Cuvier's ideas were swept aside by the uniformitarians who saw the earth and its cargo of life unfolding with almost agonizing slowness. But Cuvier is making a comeback, as illustrated by the following back-to-back articles in Nature. We quote from the abstracts.

"Closely spaced samples from an uninterupted calcareous pelagic sequence across the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary reveal that the extinction of planktonic Foraminifera and nannofossils was abrupt without any previous warning in the sedimentary record, and that the moment of extinction was coupled with anomalous trace element enrichments, especially of iridium and osmium. The rarity of these two elements in the crust of the Earth indicates that an extraterrestrial source, such as the impact of a large meteorite may have provided the required amounts of iridium and osmium."

(Smit, J., and Hertogen, J.; "An Extraterrestrial Event at the Cretaceous-Tertiary Boundary," Nature, 285:198, 1980.)

"Evidence is presented indicating that the extinction, at the end of the Cretaceous, of large terrestrial animals was caused by atmospheric heating during a cometary impact and that the extinction of calcareous marine plankton was a consequence of poisoning by cyanide released by the fallen comet and of a catastrophic rise in calcitecompensation depth in the oceans after the detoxification of the cyanide."

(Hsu, Kenneth J.; "Terrestrial Catastrophe Caused by Cometary Impact at the End of Cretaceous," Nature, 285:201, 1980.)

From Science Frontiers #12, Fall 1980. 1980-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987