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Peat Bogs as Geological Archives: Lennart von Post et al., and the Development of Quantitative Pollen Analysis during World War I
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts. (Umeå Studies in Science, Technology and Environment)
2014 (English)In: Earth Sciences History, ISSN 0736-623X, Vol. 33, no 2, 187-200 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In 1916, at the 16th Convention of Scandinavian Naturalists in Kristiania (Oslo), a novel quantitative method for the analysis of postglacial vegetation and climate history was presented. The idea behind the method, later known as pollen analysis, was to utilize peat bogs as geological archives and fossil tree pollen stored in such archives as data. In the historiography of palynology, this lecture by the Swedish geologist Lennart von Post (1884–1951) remains a classic. Pollen from postglacial deposits had indeed been used before, but the approach represented a breakthrough through the launch of the so-called pollen diagram, by which it was possible to summarize and visualize a large amount of data. In the present essay, certain aspects of the intellectual, social and material context of von Post’s work are explored. I argue that the aim of the pollen analytical method was to solve Quaternary geological problems rather than biological, and that the method’s empirical foundation was connected to an extensive survey of peat bogs, conducted in order to secure energy supply during the First World War. Furthermore, although the method soon won adherents within the scientific community, it is demonstrated in the essay that it did not receive unanimous approval.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
History of the Earth Sciences Society , 2014. Vol. 33, no 2, 187-200 p.
Keyword [en]
Pollen analysis, pollen diagrams, Lennart von Post, Quaternary geology, Swedish Geological Survey
National Category
History of Technology History of Ideas
Research subject
History Of Sciences and Ideas
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-89990ISI: 000345066200003OAI: diva2:725500
Riksbankens Jubileumsfond
Available from: 2014-06-16 Created: 2014-06-16 Last updated: 2014-12-23Bibliographically approved

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Nordlund, Christer
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