This is description of modern geology not from the physical or chemical description of matter but from the perspective of solids within a solid. It was done by a catholic clergy man Nicolaus Steno who later became a bishop. Originally, he was an anatomist who became fascinated by the resemblance of other animals with man. He received an assignment to study a fossilized head of a shark which gave rise to his mode of study of a ‘solid within a solid’. He observed that the teeth were formed within rocks which then meant that the rocks had a plastic power to mould the teeth or the rock formed on the teeth as they fossilized through crystallization.

His observation was based on a mechanical philosophy which meant that there was a connection between internal similarity and mechanical sense. Through this principle, he deduced a general principle of geology and origin of earth in that all objects of geology were solids within a solid, deposition of matter- fossils in strata and the crystals in rocks. He uses observational methods to classify solids to subdivisions based on the origin rather than physical attributes. He follows taxonomic classification through two insights. First, he recognizes the solid within a solid theory as an autonomous unit of study and then he further classifies those solids into classes by mode of origin. To simplify further his theory, he argues that the process is like moulding and a close observation of the two solids lying within each other, can give a clue as to which is older between the two.

His work prondomus is subdivided into four parts which are related and it is in the fourth part that he tries to tie geology aspect of his writing with the origin of the earth and where those geological aspects arose from. He tries to include the biblical theory of creation and put the known history of earth into it.

In order to understand the master piece work done by Nicolaus Steno, one must know that his approach is different from the traditional way that is used by other geologist. This guy was a catholic clergy who was trying to reconcile geology and the biblical creation theory. This is evident in the title of his work which was hard to decipher the point of view where he was writing his work from. To understand the title, one has to do concerted efforts to understand the underlying theories and see what the work means in geology terms.


Laudan, R. (1987). The Titular Bishop of Titiopolis: Hen’s teeth and Horse’s Toes. New York:      W.W. Norton.

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