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Publisher's Summary

This is the story of a seventeenth-century scientist-turned-priest who forever changed our understanding of the Earth and created a new field of science.

It was a puzzle that stymied history's greatest minds: Why were the fossils of seashells found far inland, sometimes high up into the mountains? Seventeenth century, scholars calculated the age of the earth to be only six thousand years - not enough time for the fossils to form.

The brilliant and enigmatic Nicholas Steno - the man whom Stephen Jay Gould called "the founder of geology" - explored beyond the pages of the Bible, to look directly at the clues left in the layers of the Earth. Steno challenged the religious and scientific thinking of his own time, and set the stage for the modern science that came after him. As the groundbreaking ideas gains acceptance, Steno entered the priesthood and rose to become a bishop, ultimately becoming venerated as a saint.

A thrilling scientific investigation and the portrait of an extraordinary genius, The Seashell on the Mountaintop gives us new insight into our planet, revealing how we learned to read the story told to us by the Earth itself, written in rock and stone.

©2003 Alan Cutler; (P)2003 HighBridge Company, Producer: Audio Scholar

Critic Reviews

"Cutler's animated and energetic prose provides a page-turning thriller of scientific discovery, and this splendid biography captures in intimate detail not only its subject but also the tenor of Steno's times." (Publishers Weekly)
"A sophisticated portrait of a forgotten pioneer." (Booklist)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall

genesis of geology

This is a well written history of the genesis of geology. Geologist types will especially enjoy it but the style is such that everyone will be able to follow the story. I found the discussion of previous centuries' thought patterns and beliefs particulary interesting. Things that we now think are common sense weren't so obvious years ago. It makes you wonder what beliefs we are still holding on to that are getting in the way of progress.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Rick
  • Bloomington, MN, USA
  • 02-11-05

A biography of the end of ignorance

This is wonderful book that begins as a biography of a particular 17th century scientist and scholar (Nicolai Stenno) but, in reality, becomes an biography of how inquisitive scholarship, at the right time in history, can expand our knowledge of the world by challenging the paradigms that hold scientific understanding in check. This is a great account of how the exploration of a simple curiosity challenged the fundamental biblical and "scholarly" interpretation of the creation and formation of natural world. If you interpret biblical stories such as Noah's Flood or the Creation story as fundamentally true - which must serve as the basis for all scientific examination - you may find this book troublesome.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Vanessa
  • Franklin, TN, USA
  • 10-22-03

Not to be missed

I was completely facinated by this book. This should be required reading for anyone with a background or interest in geology. Steno's principles, set down in the late 1600's are still in use by geologists today. This book was, quite simply one of the best audio books I have heard. Don't miss this one!

20 of 21 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

A well told story of an unusual scientist

An interesting and rewarding exploration of Nicholas Steno, his love of knowledge and science, and the life he lived in that era. It's also interesting to see how the crowd of "knowledgeable people" can sometimes be quite blind and quite wrong. Well written by Alan Cutler and easy to follow. Grover Gardner does well. I enjoyed it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Story
  • Elsa Braun
  • Burlington, WI, United States
  • 02-15-16

Great interlacing of faith and science

An unusual catholic Saint. An accomplished scientist. Great research untangle the origins of geology and give credit where credit is due. I'm going to buy a paper copy of the book for my library. The narrator was one of my favorites.

  • Overall

Best as a cure for insomnia

This is an incredibly boring book. Both the text and the narrator are dry as dirt. I tried listening to it and was only able to last 15 minutes. It would be good as a sleep aid.

2 of 30 people found this review helpful