The Most Groundbreaking Scientist You’ve Never Heard of – TED-Ed | Addison Anderson (2013)

Seventeenth-century Danish geologist Nicolas Steno [11 January 1638 – 5 December 1686] studied anatomical details of many species including cadavers at a young age. Steno’s contributions to geology influenced Charles Lyell, James Hutton and Charles Darwin. Here in this TED-Ed short animation Addison Anderson tells Steno’s little-known legacy. Steno was a groundbreaking scientist demonstrating the power of empiricism a scientific tradition that was started by Aristotle.

Steno, in his Dissertationis prodromus of 1669 is credited with four of the defining principles of the science of stratigraphy:

[1] the law of superposition: “… at the time when any given stratum was being formed, all the matter resting upon it was fluid, and, therefore, at the time when the lower stratum was being formed, none of the upper strata existed”.

[2] the principle of original horizontality: “Strata either perpendicular to the horizon or inclined to the horizon were at one time parallel to the horizon”.

[3] the principle of lateral continuity: “Material forming any stratum were continuous over the surface of the Earth unless some other solid bodies stood in the way”.

[4] the principle of cross-cutting relationships: “If a body or discontinuity cuts across a stratum, it must have formed after that stratum”.

In 2012, Google made a doodle in recognition of Nicolas Steno for his birthday:

 

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