video record
Media not available in the Digital Archive
This programme shows Mount Etna in eruption and in normal activity: something of the history of men's knowledge of volcanos and an account of the part that Etna played in the work of Sir Charles Ly...ell, author of the great nineteenth century book, The Principles of Geology. It is written and presented by Dr. Martin Hudwick, Lecturer in the History of Science, University of Cambridge, who has made a special study of the work of Sir Charles Lyell, and is the author of 'Lyell on Etna, and the antiquity of the earth' (in C.J. Schneer (ed.) Toward a History of Geology (Cambridge Mass, M.I.T. Press 1969).) Etna is the largest active volcano in Europe. In 1828 the young geologist Charles Lyell travelled around Sicily and climbed Etna with a fundamental question in mind: could he find evidence to show that the earth's surface had been shaped by the same forces in the remote past as in the period of human history? This question focussed into a more specific form: could he establish how the time scale of human history was related to that of the history of the earth before the first appearance of Man? The processes of reasoning in Lyell's mind are closely followed from his diaries and drawings, from the books he knew, and from careful examination of the rocks and mountains that he himself visited on his vital journey to Sicily. The programme combines contemporary illustrations of volcanos with location filming of Etna and other areas of Sicily the hills near Lentini to the south of Etna, and the Greek temples at Agrigento near the south coast. It shows how volcanos were the most striking evidence of the power of geological processes, within the period of recorded human history. Finally, the programme examines the implications of Lyell's discoveries for the dating of the history of the earth, and the way in which it laid foundations for the work of Lyell's greatest disciple, Charles Darwin.
Metadata describing this Open University video programme
Module code and title: AMST283, Science and belief: from Copernicus to Darwin
Item code: AMST283; 09
First transmission date: 14-08-1974
Published: 1974
Rights Statement:
Restrictions on use:
Duration: 00:22:30
+ Show more...
Producer: Alasdair Clayre
Contributor: Martin Rudwick
Publisher: BBC Open University
Subject terms: Etna, Mount (Italy); Geology--Italy; Lava flows; Sicily (Italy)--History; Volcanoes; Lyell, Charles
Footage description: After titles - shots of Etna erupting (purchased film). Martin Rudwick, sitting by a low stone wall in Sicily, opens the programme with a quotation from Georges Cuvier. Shots of Cuvier's chart of extinct fossil animals. Mention of the influence of this on Lyell. Illustrations from Hamilton's "Tabular view of volcanic phenomena", a contemporary influence on Lyell. Rudwick explains the significance of volcanic activity for geologists of the time. Another book Lyell read was John Bord Sumner's "Treatise on the records of the Creator", giving a religious author's acceptance of geological rather than Biblical time-scales for the earth's history. Stills from this, also from Bouffant's "Histoire naturelle generale et particulere". Title pages of some other historical works. Rudwick explains the importance of Etna to Lyell. Description of the volcano, and film of it dormant and during the 1971 eruption. Drawing of 1669 eruption which created Monti Rossi. 19th century lithograph showing people examining the mountain. List of eruptions and drawing published shortly before Lyell's visit showing many of the recorded lava flows. Continuing this description, Rudwick shows how the volcano grows with repeated lava flows. More (purchased) film of the 1971 eruption. Film of the wooded slopes of Etna, of Monti Ross and of the volcano's summit. Having established the great age of Etna in terms of human time scales Lyell explored the underlying strata which must be older. Shots of areas in the foothills and the plains of Catania. Ruined Temple of Concordia. Fossil shells in rock. Rudwick explains the discovery: the fossils underlying Etna are of living species, and so of the most recent geological era. Shot of Cuvier's strata chart. Lyellfs work in Sicily was crucial to his greatest book, "The principles of geology". Shots of it. Rudwick sums up and closes with a quote from the preface to Darwin's "Origin of Species".
Master spool number: 6HT/71320
Production number: 00525_3116
Videofinder number: 3360
Available to public: no