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Ian Smalley

Abstract

Charles Lyell made a geological excursion to the Eifel region in Germany in July 1831. He went to examine volcanic rocks and volcanic landscapes. He discussed this outing with Mary Somerville and Samuel & Charlotte Hibbert. It is possible that he observed loess in the Eifel. It is hoped that his Eifel notebook is with the Lyell papers at Kinnordy and that it may be transcribed and published. Lyell spread the word on loess; Von Leonard invented it and Horner enthused about it but Lyell disseminated the essential idea of loess. There is (so far) no clear evidence that Lyell saw and appreciated loess in the Eifel region in 1831. This suggests that his first real encounter with the loess (ground or concept) was in the discussions with the Hibberts in September 1831. He certainly had substantial (reported) encounters in 1832, and was definitely interested by the time of the publication of the Principles of Geology vol. 3 in 1833.

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Ian Smalley and Igor Obreht

Abstract

Loessification is a process by which a body of non-loess ground is transformed into a body of loess ground. The history of loessification is one of controversy and confrontation, largely because of mutual misunderstandings between geologists and pedologists. Lev S. Berg is the ‘only begetter’ of the theory, first proposed in 1916, and propagated throughout his life. R.J. Russell proposed the same approach to the loess in the Lower Mississippi valley in his famous 1944 paper, which contributed enormously to the study of loess in North America. As understanding of the various processes involved in the formation of loess deposits has developed, a compromise position on loess formation has become possible. The major intrinsic features of loess deposits are the open structure and the collapsibility. It appears that the open structure is caused by aeolian depositional processes and the collapsibility is caused by loessification processes. The compromise was initiated by Marton Pécsi in 1990, He endeavoured to retain a loessification aspect in the study of loess deposits, as the subject appeared to be overwhelmed by the aeolian idea system promoted by geologists; it has been mostly a Central European endeavour. The history of the concept of loessification largely involves (1) its development in Russia, (2) its dissemination and discussion – and attempts at refutation and modification – in the wider world.

Open access

Ian Smalley, Holger Kels, Tivadar Gaudenyi and Mladjen Jovanovic

Abstract

Charles Lyell (1797–1875) was an important loess pioneer. His major contribution was to distribute information on the nature and existence of loess via his influential book ‘The Principles of Geology’. He was obviously impressed by loess when he encountered it; the initial encounter can be split into three phases: conversations about loess; confronting the actual material in the field; and reading about loess in the literature. Detail can be added to an important phase in the scientific development of the study of loess. Significant events include conversations with Hibbert in 1831, conversations and explorations with von Leonhard and Bronn in 1832, the opportunity to include a section on loess in vol. 3 of ‘Principles’ for publication in 1833, a substantial Rhineland excursion in 1833, the reporting of the results of this excursion in 1834, discussions at the German Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Bonn in 1835. Of all the people encountered perhaps H.G. Bronn was the most significant. Lyell eventually listed eleven people as relevant to the loess writings: Bronn, von Leonhard, Boue, Voltz, Steininger, Merian, Rozet, Hibbert, Noeggerath, von Meyer, Horner – of these Bronn, von Leonhard, Hibbert and Horner appear to have been the most significant, viewed from 2015.