Nicolas Steno facts for kids

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Nicolas Steno was a Danish scientist, a pioneer in anatomy and geology. He became a Catholic bishop in his later years.

by 1659 he questioned the knowledge of the natural world accepted in his time. He questioned the idea that fossils grew in the ground, and the explanations of rock formation. His investigations made him one of the founders of modern stratigraphy and modern geology.

Geology and stratigraphy

Steno De Solido Dissertationis Prodromus 1669
De solido intra solidum naturaliter contento dissertationis prodromus (1669)

Steno, in his Dissertationis prodromus of 1669 is credited with four of the defining principles of the science of stratigraphy. Much simplified, his ideas were:

  1. the law of superposition: Lower strata were laid down earlier than upper strata.
  2. the principle of original horizontality: when one of the upper strata was being formed, the lower stratum had already become a solid.
  3. the principle of lateral continuity: when any given stratum was being formed it was encompassed on its sides by another solid substance.
  4. When any stratum was being formed, all the matter resting upon it was fluid, so at the time when the lowest stratum was being formed, none of the upper strata existed.

Steno's ideas still form the basis of stratigraphy and were key in the development of James Hutton's theory of infinitely repeating cycles of seabed deposition, uplifting, erosion, and submersion.


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