In explaining the origin of “figured stones” or fossils, scientists in the Seventeenth Century were faced with the dilemma of how these objects, which in many cases closely resembled known marine organisms, correspond to what were seen as teachings of the Bible. Their attempts to understand fossils were further complicated by work already done by scientists in the Sixteenth Century. Recognizing that not all of the species of “figured stones” could be found in modern seas, and unable for theological reasons to accept extinction, some scientists in the Seventeenth Century chose to classify fossils not as the remains of once-living organisms but as products of nature (” lusus naturae”). My research reveals the fascinating interrelationship among geology, natural philosophy, and theology in early modern Europe.
Thomas Rothfus, ’99 Arlington Heights, IL
Sponsor: William Carroll