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On the Origin of Mountains

On the Origin of Mountains

In Garrison’s History of Medicine one reads of Ibn Sina or Avicenna (980–1037), called “the Prince of Physicians,” a convivial Omarian spirit, eminently successful in practice as court

physician and vizier to different caliphs. Physician in chief to the celebrated hospital at Bagdad, he also trod the primrose path and as a result died in the prime of his life, although not without having written more than 100 works on various subjects.

One of these, “On Petrifactions,” entitles him to be called the “Father of Geology,” and the following extract, given by Withing- ton in Medical History from Earliest Times, might have been published as something new eight centuries later:

“Mountains are produced in two ways, either by elevations of the earth’s crust, as in earthquakes, or by the action of water, which has hollowed out the valleys at the same time; for there are harder and softer tracts, and wind and water remove the latter while leaving the former. Many ages have been required to do this, and perhaps the mountains are now getting smaller. That water has been the chief agent is shown by the marks of aquatic and other animals found on many rocks.”