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Download The Seashell on the Mountaintop: A Story of Science, Sainthood, and the Humble Genius who Discovered a New History of the Earth Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample The Seashell on the Mountaintop: A Story of Science, Sainthood, and the Humble Genius who Discovered a New History of the Earth Audiobook, by Alan Cutler Click for printable size audiobook cover
3.79 out of 53.79 out of 53.79 out of 53.79 out of 53.79 out of 5 3.79 (24 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Alan Cutler Narrator: Grover Gardner Publisher: Highbridge Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: April 2003 ISBN: 9781598871913
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The story of enigmatic scientist-turned-priest, Nicholas Steno, who first proposed that the shell-shaped rocks commonly found on Italian mountaintops actually were fossils—a notion completely antithetical to the seventeenth century theological and scientific world view, which maintained that the earth was only 6000 years old. Placing Steno’s story in the context of such characters as Darwin, Newton, Thomas Jefferson, and Saint Augustine, Alan Cutler illuminates the subject of “deep time” by combining authoritative science with stories of extraordinary people to bring home the philosophical and personal significance of Steno’s ideas, offering a fresh, new perspective on the very old planet on which we live.

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Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ray | 1/25/2014

    " More than one man may lay claim to the title as the father of modern geology, and Nicholas Stano is one of the earliest. His work with fossils from the late 17th Century did not make a significant contribution to the understanding of the world around us during his time, but his work as later re-discovered was revolutionary. Anyone who read Simon Winchester's book "The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology" should like this book as much if not more. An interesting element of the book is the description of how influential the church was in the late 16th and 17th Century regarding scientific understanding, and how so many things we take for granted today were impossible to believe given the biblical interpretations so strong during those times. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides | 1/16/2014

    " This is an interesting subject but I found this particular discussion to be somewhat tedious. (I, like many others I'm sure, became curious about Steno after Google did a logo commemorating him a few weeks ago.) "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Michael | 1/10/2014

    " I have read this three times. It is amazing. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Bibliomama | 1/3/2014

    " The man and the history were fascinating, but the writing was very dull. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Stan Paulsen | 12/25/2013

    " Wow! This is the coolest overview of early geologic discovery and methodology. The realization that rocks are very ancient and the fossils embedded in those rocks are just as ancient as the rocks was unheard of until Nicolas Steno. Nicolas Steno was the first man in recorded history to link geologic layers with the time line of geologic history. Before he added his ideas to the pantheon of science, there were some pretty wacky ideas about how sea life fossils were embedded in the rock high on mountain tops hundreds of miles form the nearest ocean. No one thought of the meaning of the striped sediment exposed on cliff faces and mountain sides until Mr. Steno. Very interesting in terms of modern geology/paleontology and science history. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Cheryl | 12/13/2013

    " I was a little disappointed, this is a biography of a man who started asking the first questions about how seashells got on the top of the Alps, which to me is pretty miraculous and I know how they got there. Imagine being in the time where no one knew! But the tone wasn't very engaging or interesting. I still can't believe that people in that day and age (1600's) thought mountains were hideous and offended God... but they did. I did like that Steno started as an anatomist so there are parallels to exploring the human body and exploring the earth that were cool. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sandra D | 12/5/2013

    " Biography of the father of stratigraphy, with a historical overview of human understanding as far as the natural and physical sciences and where it stood by the mid-1600s. It's interesting to see all the different lines of thought about how mountains and seashells in mountains and various other natural wonders came to be -- most of which sound pretty outlandish today, but seemed to make perfect sense at the time. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Linconter | 11/23/2013

    " A very readable story about the man who was the Father of Geology. Will certainly make you see Italy in a different way! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dan | 11/20/2013

    " Did the Noah's flood put the seashells on the tops of mountains? Nope! This book convinced me. That Shallow seas covered what was once those mountains is pretty clear to me thanks in part to this book. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Rae | 11/11/2013

    " The life of Nicolaus Steno, who was a Danish anatomist and converted Catholic priest. He was instrumental in discovering the meaning behind sedimentary layers in rocks and is known as the father of geology. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Dave | 11/2/2013

    " A wonderful first book for lovers of popular science and history of science. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Robin | 10/11/2013

    " This biography flows nicely and introduces some of the basic principles of geology. Also great illustration of the fine line between science/religion and genius/insanity. Steno was one interesting Dane. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 John Petersen | 1/26/2013

    " I enjoyed the book. I learned a lot about the interaction between science and the Christian religion. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Whitaker | 9/27/2012

    " Why "it was okay": It got the job done, wasn't boring to read, but didn't add any insights or say anything particularly interesting. Kind of like someone stretched out an article you'd find in The National Geographic but without the great colour photos. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Erin | 9/11/2012

    " This is the type of history of science I love: to the point, interesting, and focused on what is at hand. My only regret is that there is no equivalent for Leibniz, who was one of the most fascinating side-figures in it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Amanda | 6/1/2012

    " Extremely interesting. I was worried it would bore me since I have never read an actual biography before, but I loved it. I enjoyed learning about the scientific theories of the time (not just from Nicholaus Steno) and how they were influenced by the beliefs of the world around them. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Dan | 11/13/2011

    " An interesting story about the beginnings of geology. Most interesting is the discussion of the stupidity of trying to force fit scientific reality into the Laws of the church. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dhartridge | 5/10/2011

    " The history of science is full of interesting happenings and characters. This short book about a 17th century geologist touches on accommodations between science and religion, the egos of early discoverers, and the reasons that people believed what they did about the natural world. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ideiosepius | 1/13/2011

    " One of the loveliest science history books I have ever read.
    Gives a great account of the life and times of the 17th C Danish scientist Nicolaus Steno who should (if he is not) be hailed as one of the founders of the science of geology.
    Loved it! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dhartridge | 9/30/2010

    " The history of science is full of interesting happenings and characters. This short book about a 17th century geologist touches on accommodations between science and religion, the egos of early discoverers, and the reasons that people believed what they did about the natural world. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Linconter | 2/25/2010

    " A very readable story about the man who was the Father of Geology. Will certainly make you see Italy in a different way! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dan | 10/7/2009

    " Did the Noah's flood put the seashells on the tops of mountains? Nope! This book convinced me. That Shallow seas covered what was once those mountains is pretty clear to me thanks in part to this book. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Michael | 8/1/2009

    " I have read this three times. It is amazing. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Erin | 7/23/2008

    " This is the type of history of science I love: to the point, interesting, and focused on what is at hand. My only regret is that there is no equivalent for Leibniz, who was one of the most fascinating side-figures in it. "

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About the Author

Alan Cutler, PhD, a well-known and widely respected researcher in paleontology and geology, is a Research Associate in the Department of Paleobiology at the Smithsonian. Affliated with the Smithsonian since 1993, he also works in the Smithsonian’s Department of Public Programs. He is an expert in the study of fossilization.

About the Narrator

Grover Gardner (a.k.a. Tom Parker) is an award-winning narrator with over eight hundred titles to his credit. Named one of the “Best Voices of the Century” and a Golden Voice by AudioFile magazine, he has won three prestigious Audie Awards, was chosen Narrator of the Year for 2005 by Publishers Weekly, and has earned more than thirty Earphones Awards.