J. Marvin Herndon's Foreword to
Mark McMenamin’s Translation from German of
Paläogeographie by Franz Kossmat (1924)
Prof. Mark McMenamin’s translation of Paläogeographie may prove to be as timely and important today as when the original German version was published in 1924.
Prof. Dr. Franz Kossmat (1871-1938) was one of those very rare individuals, like Prof. Dr. Eduard Suess (1831-1914), who was able to assimilate vast quantities of geological observations and to see in them global patterns of commonality of events and processes, and then to communicate them to his readers in a precise and understandable manner. Often geologists attempt to explain observations in terms of popular theory; not Kossmet. In 1924, Alfred Wegener’s contentious continental drift theory had only been in the scientific literature for twelve years, and had already met fierce criticism from the “planetary contraction” geological establishment. Had Kossmat tried to explain geological observations from the standpoint of contraction theory, his book would doubtlessly have faded into obscurity. Instead, he broached the subject with an openness to Wegener’s ideas, and used the commonality of geological observations to paint a picture of the global history of water and land forms, tied to geological time through a rich description of fossil and geological evidence.
Almost ninety years has passed since publication of Paläogeographie. The idea of mantle convection, published just three years before Kossmat’s book, has become firmly entrenched in today’s geological establishment. Plate tectonics, critically reliant upon mantle convection and already nearly half a century old, is the present establishment’s acceptance and extension of Wegener’s drift theory. So, if Kossmat wrote Paläogeographie today, would he have cast all observations in terms of that theory? I think not. The strength of Kossmat’s book is that it is a “stand alone” document. The observations described are those of Earth’s oceans and continents, and they will stand true even as plate tectonics is superseded by a new indivisible geoscience paradigm that does not necessitate (physically impossible) mantle convection, but explains the myriad observations attributed to plate tectonics. This is the reason why McMenamin’s translation of Paläogeographie may prove to be as timely and important today as when the original German version was published in 1924.
Published by The Edwin Mellen Press (2012)
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