Conventional geologic thinking always said that the landscape between Idaho and the Cascade Mountains -- a unique place characterized by gullies, coulees, and deserts -- was created over millions of years by rivers that had long since gone dry. Science professor J Harlen Bretz (who made up his own name and intentionally didn't use a period after J), thought otherwise. Based on extensive research and keen observation, he believed this area had been scoured in a virtual instant by a massive flood. Because Bretz was a gadfly in the scientific community and his idea sounded like an attempt to prove the biblical flood, he was personally and professionally attacked and humiliated. Undaunted, he applied all of his skills to proving his thesis, but he would have to wait for confirmation until satellite photography became widespread years after his retirement. "Bretz's Flood" tells an exciting story of an epic mystery of the western landscape, how it came to be solved, and the fascinating scientist who did it.
The land between Idaho and the Cascade Mountains is characterized by gullies, coulees, and deserts—in geologic terms, it is a wholly unique place on the earth. Legendary geologist J Harlen Bretz, starting in the 1920s, was the first to explore the area. Bretz, a former science teacher at Franklin High School in Seattle and then a professor at the University of Washington and later the University of Chicago, eventually formed the theory that the land was scoured in a virtual instant by a massive flood. His original thinking was rewarded with various forms of public and academic humiliation. In the mid-twentieth century, his theory sounded a bit too much like the biblical flood, and the scientific world wanting nothing to do with that sort of idea. (Ironically, Bretz was an avowed atheist, so this was hardly his inspiration.) Bretz's Flood tells the dramatic story of this scientific maverick-how he came to study the region, his radical theory that a huge flood created it, and how the mainstream geologic community campaigned to derail him from pursuing an idea that satellite photos would confirm decades later.
ohn Soennichsen is the author of Live! From Death Valley and Bretz's Flood, the biography of Harlen Bretz, the first geologist to research the Scablands and propose its creation by massive flooding. Soennichsen is a member of the Ice Age Floods Institute and lives just outside the eastern Washington town of Cheney, along the rim of a prominent Scabland channel.
For the hardcover edition of Bretz's Flood: "This is a masterful story of the spirit of adventure as embodied by a man who, though almost forgotten today, was instrumental in bringing scientific inquiry out of the Victorian era and into the modern age
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