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The Geologist by Carl Spitzweg, c.1860
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A geologist is a scientist who studies the solid, liquid, and gaseous matter that constitutes Earth and other terrestrial planets, as well as the processes that shape them. Geologists usually study geology, earth science, or geophysics, although backgrounds in physics, chemistry, biology, and other sciences are also useful. Field research (field work) is an important component of geology, although many subdisciplines incorporate laboratory and digitalized work. Geologists can be classified in a larger group of scientists, called geoscientists.


Geologists work in the energy and mining sectors searching for natural resources such as petroleum, natural gas, precious and base metals. They are also in the forefront of preventing and mitigating damage from natural hazards and disasters such as earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis and landslides. Their studies are used to warn the general public of the occurrence of these events. Geologists are also important contributors to climate change discussions.


Scotsman James Hutton, father of modern geology Hutton James portrait Raeburn.jpg
Scotsman James Hutton, father of modern geology

James Hutton is often viewed as the first modern geologist. [1] In 1785 he presented a paper entitled Theory of the Earth to the Royal Society of Edinburgh. In his paper, he explained his theory that the Earth must be much older than had previously been supposed to allow enough time for mountains to be eroded and for sediments to form new rocks at the bottom of the sea, which in turn were raised up to become dry land. Hutton published a two-volume version of his ideas in 1795 (Vol. 1, Vol. 2). Followers of Hutton were known as Plutonists because they believed that some rocks were formed by vulcanism, which is the deposition of lava from volcanoes, as opposed to the Neptunists , led by Abraham Werner, who believed that all rocks had settled out of a large ocean whose level gradually dropped over time.

"Geologists at work" from the U.S. Geological and Geographic Survey of the Territories. (1874 - 06/30/1879) Photographer: William Henry Jackson Geologists at work - NARA - 517104.jpg
"Geologists at work" from the U.S. Geological and Geographic Survey of the Territories. (1874 - 06/30/1879) Photographer: William Henry Jackson

The first geological map of the United States was produced in 1809 by William Maclure. [2] [3] In 1807, Maclure commenced the self-imposed task of making a geological survey of the United States. Almost every state in the Union was traversed and mapped by him; the Allegheny Mountains being crossed and recrossed some 50 times. [4] The results of his unaided labors were submitted to the American Philosophical Society in a memoir entitled Observations on the Geology of the United States explanatory of a Geological Map, and published in the Society's Transactions, together with the nation's first geological map. [5] This antedates William Smith's geological map of England by six years, although it was constructed using a different classification of rocks.

Sir Charles Lyell first published his famous book, Principles of Geology , [6] in 1830. This book, which influenced the thought of Charles Darwin, successfully promoted the doctrine of uniformitarianism. This theory states that slow geological processes have occurred throughout the Earth's history and are still occurring today. In contrast, catastrophism is the theory that Earth's features formed in single, catastrophic events and remained unchanged thereafter. Though Hutton believed in uniformitarianism, the idea was not widely accepted at the time.


A young geologist learns about flow banding Geology explained^ - - 1450258.jpg
A young geologist learns about flow banding

For an aspiring geologist, training typically includes significant coursework in physics, mathematics, and chemistry, in addition to classes offered through the geology department; historical and physical geology, igneous and metamorphic petrology and petrography, hydrogeology, sedimentology, stratigraphy, mineralogy, palaeontology, physical geography and structural geology are among the many required areas of study. Most geologists also need skills in GIS and other mapping techniques. Geology students often spend portions of the year, especially the summer though sometimes during a January term, living and working under field conditions with faculty members (often referred to as "field camp"). Many non-geologists often take geology courses or have expertise in geology that they find valuable to their fields; this is common in the fields of geography, engineering, chemistry, urban planning, environmental studies, among others.


A geologist working in the Arctic VNIIOarctic.jpg
A geologist working in the Arctic
Geologists exploring Jurassic sedimentary rocks in Makhtesh Gadol, Negev Desert, Israel MakhteshGadolJurassicRidge.JPG
Geologists exploring Jurassic sedimentary rocks in Makhtesh Gadol, Negev Desert, Israel
Geologist explaining the importance of volcanic ash layers to students on field in Iceland Tephrochronology iceland.JPG
Geologist explaining the importance of volcanic ash layers to students on field in Iceland

Geologists, can be generally identified as a specialist in one or more of the various geoscience disciplines, such as a geophysicist or geochemist. Geologists may concentrate their studies or research in one or more of the following disciplines:


"Picturesque camp made by a lone geologist on the cinders of Inferno". This photo was taken during a U.S. Department of the Interior Geological Survey in 1921 CratersOfTheMoonFordTent.jpg
"Picturesque camp made by a lone geologist on the cinders of Inferno". This photo was taken during a U.S. Department of the Interior Geological Survey in 1921

Professional geologists work for a wide range of government agencies, private firms, and non-profit and academic institutions. They are usually hired on a contract basis or hold permanent positions within private firms or official agencies (such as the United States Geologic Survey).

Local, state, and national governments hire geologists to work on geological projects that are of interest to the public community. The investigation of a country's natural resources is often a key role when working for government institutions; the work of the geologist in this field can be made publicly available to help the community make more informed decisions related to the exploitation of resources, management of the environment and the safety of critical infrastructure - all of which is expected to bring greater wellbeing to the country. [7] This 'wellbeing' is often in the form of greater tax revenues from new or extended mining projects or through better infrastructure and/or natural disaster planning.

Geologist mud logging, common in petroleum and water-well drilling Mudlogging.JPG
Geologist mud logging, common in petroleum and water-well drilling

An engineering geologist is employed to investigate geologic hazards and geologic constraints for the planning, design and construction of public and private engineering projects, forensic and post-mortem studies, and environmental impact analysis. Exploration geologists use all aspects of geology and geophysics to locate and study natural resources. In many countries or U.S. states without specialized environmental remediation licensure programs, the environmental remediation field is often dominated by professional geologists, particularly hydrogeologists, with professional concentrations in this aspect of the field. Petroleum and mining companies use mudloggers, and large-scale land developers use the skills of geologists and engineering geologists to help them locate oil and minerals, adapt to local features such as karst topography or earthquake risk, and comply with environmental regulations.

Geologists in academia usually hold an advanced degree in a specialized area within their geological discipline and are employed by universities.

Professional designation

The rock hammer and hand lens (or loupe) are two of the most characteristic tools carried by geologists in the field. Geologists-tools hg.jpg
The rock hammer and hand lens (or loupe) are two of the most characteristic tools carried by geologists in the field.

In Canada, National Instrument 43-101 requires reports containing estimates of mineral resources and reserves to be prepared by, or under the supervision of, a Qualified Person (QP) who has at least five years of experience with the reported minerals and is a member of a professional association. The QP accepts personal liability for the professional quality of the report and underlying work. [8]

The rules and guidelines codified in National Instrument 43-101 were introduced after a scandal in 1997 where Bre-X geologists salted drill core samples at a gold exploration property in Busang, Indonesia. The falsified drilling results misled Bre-X investors and upon discovery of the fraud, the company collapsed in the largest gold mining scam in history. [9]

In Europe exists the professional title of EurGeol (European Geologist [10] ) awarded by the European Federation of Geologists.

See also

Related Research Articles

Geology is a branch of natural science concerned with the Earth and other astronomical objects, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which they change over time. Modern geology significantly overlaps all other Earth sciences, including hydrology. It is integrated with Earth system science and planetary science.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Metamorphic rock</span> Rock that was subjected to heat and pressure

Metamorphic rocks arise from the transformation of existing rock to new types of rock in a process called metamorphism. The original rock (protolith) is subjected to temperatures greater than 150 to 200 °C and, often, elevated pressure of 100 megapascals (1,000 bar) or more, causing profound physical or chemical changes. During this process, the rock remains mostly in the solid state, but gradually recrystallizes to a new texture or mineral composition. The protolith may be an igneous, sedimentary, or existing metamorphic rock.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rock (geology)</span> Naturally occurring mineral aggregate

In geology, rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its chemical composition, and the way in which it is formed. Rocks form the Earth's outer solid layer, the crust, and most of its interior, except for the liquid outer core and pockets of magma in the asthenosphere. The study of rocks involves multiple subdisciplines of geology, including petrology and mineralogy. It may be limited to rocks found on Earth, or it may include planetary geology that studies the rocks of other celestial objects.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Volcanologist</span> Scientist who studies volcanoes

A volcanologist, or volcano scientist, is a geologist who focuses on understanding the formation and eruptive activity of volcanoes. Volcanologists frequently visit volcanoes, sometimes active ones, to observe and monitor volcanic eruptions, collect eruptive products including tephra, rock and lava samples. One major focus of inquiry in recent times is the prediction of eruptions to alleviate the impact on surrounding populations and monitor natural hazards associated with volcanic activity. Geologists who research volcanic materials that make up the solid Earth are referred to as igneous petrologists.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Economic geology</span> Science concerned with earth materials of economic value

Economic geology is concerned with earth materials that can be used for economic and industrial purposes. These materials include precious and base metals, nonmetallic minerals and construction-grade stone. Economic geology is a subdiscipline of the geosciences; according to Lindgren (1933) it is “the application of geology”. It may be called the scientific study of the Earth's sources of mineral raw materials and the practical application of the acquired knowledge.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Petrology</span> Branch of geology that studies the formation, composition, distribution and structure of rocks

Petrology is the branch of geology that studies rocks and the conditions under which they form. Petrology has three subdivisions: igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary petrology. Igneous and metamorphic petrology are commonly taught together because both make heavy use of chemistry, chemical methods, and phase diagrams. Sedimentary petrology is commonly taught together with stratigraphy because it deals with the processes that form sedimentary rock. Modern sedimentary petrology is making increasing use of chemisty.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Skarn</span> Hard, coarse-grained, hydrothermally altered metamorphic rocks

Skarns or tactites are coarse-grained metamorphic rocks that form by replacement of carbonate-bearing rocks during regional or contact metamorphism and metasomatism. Skarns may form by metamorphic recrystallization of impure carbonate protoliths, bimetasomatic reaction of different lithologies, and infiltration metasomatism by magmatic-hydrothermal fluids. Skarns tend to be rich in calcium-magnesium-iron-manganese-aluminium silicate minerals, which are also referred to as calc-silicate minerals. These minerals form as a result of alteration which occurs when hydrothermal fluids interact with a protolith of either igneous or sedimentary origin. In many cases, skarns are associated with the intrusion of a granitic pluton found in and around faults or shear zones that commonly intrude into a carbonate layer composed of either dolomite or limestone. Skarns can form by regional or contact metamorphism and therefore form in relatively high temperature environments. The hydrothermal fluids associated with the metasomatic processes can originate from a variety of sources; magmatic, metamorphic, meteoric, marine, or even a mix of these. The resulting skarn may consist of a variety of different minerals which are highly dependent on both the original composition of the hydrothermal fluid and the original composition of the protolith.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Outline of Earth sciences</span> Hierarchical outline list of articles related to Earth sciences

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Earth science:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fractional crystallization (geology)</span> Process of rock formation

Fractional crystallization, or crystal fractionation, is one of the most important geochemical and physical processes operating within crust and mantle of a rocky planetary body, such as the Earth. It is important in the formation of igneous rocks because it is one of the main processes of magmatic differentiation. Fractional crystallization is also important in the formation of sedimentary evaporite rocks.

The Geological Association of Canada (GAC) is a learned society that promotes and develops the geological sciences in Canada. The organization holds conferences, meetings and exhibitions for the discussion of geological problems and the exchange of views in matters related to geology. It publishes various journals and collections of learned papers dealing with geology.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to geology:

<i>Earth Revealed: Introductory Geology</i> American TV series or program

Earth Revealed: Introductory Geology, originally titled Earth Revealed, is a 26-part video instructional series covering the processes and properties of the physical Earth, with particular attention given to the scientific theories underlying geological principles. The telecourse was produced by Intelecom and the Southern California Consortium, was funded by the Annenberg/CPB Project, and first aired on PBS in 1992 with the title Earth Revealed. All 26 episodes are hosted by Dr. James L. Sadd, professor of environmental science at Occidental College in Los Angeles, California.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Earth science</span> Fields of natural science related to Earth

Earth science or geoscience includes all fields of natural science related to the planet Earth. This is a branch of science dealing with the physical, chemical, and biological complex constitutions and synergistic linkages of Earth's four spheres: the biosphere, hydrosphere/cryosphere, atmosphere, and geosphere. Earth science can be considered to be a branch of planetary science, but with a much older history.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Igneous rock</span> Rock formed through the cooling and solidification of magma or lava

Igneous rock, or magmatic rock, is one of the three main rock types, the others being sedimentary and metamorphic. Igneous rocks are formed through the cooling and solidification of magma or lava.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bernard Elgey Leake</span> English geologist

Bernard Elgey Leake is an English geologist. He is Emeritus Professor of Geology at the University of Glasgow, was Leverhulme Emeritus Fellow at Cardiff University 2000-2002 and has been an Honorary Research Fellow at Cardiff University since 1997.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mark S. Ghiorso</span> American geochemist

Mark S. Ghiorso is an American geochemist who resides in Seattle, Washington. He is best known for creating MELTS, a software tool for thermodynamic modeling of phase equilibria in magmatic systems.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">China University of Geosciences (Beijing)</span> University in Beijing, China

The China University of Geosciences (Beijing) (Chinese: 中国地质大学(北京); abbreviated CUGB or 北京地大) is a public research university located in Haidian District in Beijing. It is a key national university of China and a Double First Class university listed by the Chinese Ministry of Education. The university is under the direct administration of the Ministry of Education and also holds a partnership with the Ministry of Natural Resources of China.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Geological engineering</span>

Geological engineering is a discipline of engineering concerned with the application of geological science and engineering principles to fields, such as civil engineering, mining, environmental engineering, and forestry, among others. The work of geological engineers often directs or supports the work of other engineering disciplines such as assessing the suitability of locations for civil engineering, environmental engineering, mining operations, and oil and gas projects by conducting geological, geoenvironmental, geophysical, and geotechnical studies. They are involved with impact studies for facilities and operations that affect surface and subsurface environments. The engineering design input and other recommendations made by geological engineers on these projects will often have a large impact on construction and operations. Geological engineers plan, design, and implement geotechnical, geological, geophysical, hydrogeological, and environmental data acquisition. This ranges from manual ground-based methods to deep drilling, to geochemical sampling, to advanced geophysical techniques and satellite surveying. Geological engineers are also concerned with the analysis of past and future ground behaviour, mapping at all scales, and ground characterization programs for specific engineering requirements. These analyses lead geological engineers to make recommendations and prepare reports which could have major effects on the foundations of construction, mining, and civil engineering projects. Some examples of projects include rock excavation, building foundation consolidation, pressure grouting, hydraulic channel erosion control, slope and fill stabilization, landslide risk assessment, groundwater monitoring, and assessment and remediation of contamination. In addition, geological engineers are included on design teams that develop solutions to surface hazards, groundwater remediation, underground and surface excavation projects, and resource management. Like mining engineers, geological engineers also conduct resource exploration campaigns, mine evaluation and feasibility assessments, and contribute to the ongoing efficiency, sustainability, and safety of active mining projects


  1. James Hutton: The Founder of Modern Geology Archived March 3, 2016, at the Wayback Machine , American Museum of Natural History
  2. William Maclure (1817). Observations on the Geology of the United States of America: With Some Remarks on the Effect Produced on the Nature and Fertility of Soils, by the Decomposition of the Different Classes of Rocks; and an Application to the Fertility of Every State in the Union, in Reference to the Accompanying Geological Map ... author.
  3. "Title Page: Observations on the geology of the United States of America".
  4. Page 39 in Greene, J.C. and Burke, J.G. (1978) The Science of Minerals in the Age of Jefferson. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, New Series, Vol. 68, No. 4, pp. 1–113
  5. "Map of the United States of America".
  6. Charles Lyell. (1991). Principles of geology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN   978-0-226-49797-6.
  7. Geoscience Australia, Our Role, December 16, 2010,, Accessed: May 12, 2011
  8. "AIPG - American Institute of Professional Geologists".
  9. Grundhauser, Eric (21 August 2015). "The $6 Billion Gold Mine That Wasn't There". Slate. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  10. Banjac, Nenad; Savić, Ljubinko; Maran, Aleksandra; Cukavac, Milena; Ganić, Meri; Nikić, Zoran (2011-09-12). The Geology in Digital Age: Proceedings of the 17th Meeting of the Association of European Geological Societies. Serbian Geological Society. ISBN   978-86-86053-10-7.