This book tells the exciting story of the ice ages―what they were like, why they occurred, and when the next one is due. The solution to the ice age mystery originated when the National Science Foundation organized the CLIMAP project to study changes in the earth’s climate over the past 700,000 years. One of the goals was to produce a map of the earth during the last ice age. Scientists examined cores of sediment from the Indian Ocean bed and deciphered a continuous history for the past 500,000 years. Their work ultimately confirmed the theory that the earth’s irregular orbital motions account for the bizarre climatic changes which bring on ice ages.
This is a tale of scientific discovery and the colorful people who participated: Louis Agassiz, the young Swiss naturalist whose geological studies first convinced scientists that the earth has recently passed through an ice age; the Reverend William Buckland, an eccentric but respected Oxford professor who fought so hard against the ice-age theory before accepting it; James Croll, a Scots mechanic who educated himself as a scientist and first formulated the astronomic theory of ice ages; Milutin Milankovitch, the Serbian mathematician who gave the astronomic theory its firm quantitative foundation; and the many other astronomers, geochemists, geologists, paleontologists, and geophysicists who have been engaged for nearly a century and a half in the pressing search for a solution to the ice-age mystery.
John Imbrie was an American paleoceanographer best known for his work on the theory of ice ages. He is the grandson of William Imbrie, an American missionary to Japan.
After serving with the 10th Mountain Division in Italy during World War II, Imbrie earned his bachelor's degree from Princeton University. He then went on to receive a Ph.D. from Yale University in 1951. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1978 and was the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship in 1981. He was awarded the Maurice Ewing Medal in 1986 by the AGU and the William H. Twenhofel Medal by the Society for Sedimentary Geology in 1991, the only time the Society has awarded it to a non-member. Imbrie has been on the faculty of the Geological Sciences Department at Brown University since 1967, where he held the Henry L. Doherty chair of Oceanography. He served as Professor Emeritus at Brown.
Imbrie is probably best known as a co-author of the paper in Science in 1976, 'Variations in the Earth's orbit: Pacemaker of the ice ages'. Using ocean sediment cores, the Science paper verified the theories of Milutin Milanković that oscillations in climate over the past few million years are correlated with Earth's orbital variations of eccentricity, axial tilt, and precession around the Sun. These changes are now called the Milankovitch cycles.
John Imbrie was featured in the video documentary The Last Ridge: The Uphill Battles of the 10th Mountain Division.
Thoroughly researched treatment of the history of our understanding of the ice ages. This brings the subject of global climate change into perspective. I especially recomend this book to anyone interested the history of science, and or global climate change. If you are inclined toward the perspective of global warming by anthropogenic interaction you should see the rest of the story. Incoming solar radiation and the fact that it changes over time in complex ways due to several long period oscillations in our solar system (refer to Milankovitch cycles)are clearly the main drivers of global climate change. Excellent book. If you have only skimmed global climate change from the current media you're in for some eye opening! Note that this book was written in the late 1970's before Al Gore and the media started to spin.
The authors are John Imbrie/Katherine Parker Imbrie:
John Imbrie (born July 4, 1925) is an American Paleoceanographer.
Imbrie received a Ph.D. from Yale University in 1951. He was the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship in 1981. He was awarded the Maurice Ewing Medal in 1986 by the AGU and the William H. Twenhofel Medal by the Society for Sedimentary Geology in 1991. Imbrie has been on the faculty of the Geological Sciences Department at Brown University since 1977[1:], where he has held the Henry L. Doherty chair of Oceanography. He now serves as Professor Emeritus at Brown.[2:]
Imbrie is probably best known as a co-author of the "Hays, Imbrie and Shackleton" paper in Science[3:] in 1976, 'Variations in the Earth's orbit: Pacemaker of the ice ages'. Using ocean sediment cores, the Science paper verified the theories of Milutin Milanković that oscillations in climate over the past few million years could be correlated with Earth's orbital variations of eccentricity, axial tilt, and precession around the Sun (see Milankovitch cycles).
I think that this book is very good. It tells the story of how the scientific community zeroes in on an answer to a question, in this case, "why did ice ages occur when they did?" He begins with an address that Luis Agassiz gave in Neuchatel, Switzerland in 1837 and goes from there up to the time of original publication in 1976, with a little tag for the edition that I read covering the late 1970's.
This book came to my attention as part of a bibliography of something else that I had read, so I knew who Milankovitch was before I picked up the book. Now I was able to see the context in which his work came.
The reader should come to this book with some scientific and mathematical background, being at least a high school graduate. That said, it is fairly light science reading.
One of the authors, John Imbrie, is a character in this story and it must have been Katherine Palmer Imbrie, the other author, who wrote of him in the third person.
I recommend this to anyone interested in science history. Buy it, read it and then give it to a teenager who will appreciate it.
Really well researched material on a very important theory for the future of our climate. A thoroughly exciting read, this is almost fiction in the beautiful way with which it tells the story of the main protagonists.
I particularly cherished the conclusion, which shined a lot of light into how the glacier and interglacial theories will fit into the picture of global warming. There's some hope after all, and it's a breath of fresh air to sense some solid rational arguments about how our biosphere will survive the climate change debacle.
Fantastic overview of the history of ice age theory and introduction to modern climate science, albeit from the perspective of 1979 when it was initially published. Interesting stories about the lives of the scientists involved in solving this mystery are sprinkled throughout the, sometimes long, scientific explanations to keep it from being too droll. An engaging literary review with narrative.