Volcanoes: encounters through the ages

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November 5, 2018 @ 7:45 pm – 9:30 pm
Sorby Room, Wager Building
Reading Geological Society

Prof David Pyle, University of Oxford, will be presenting Volcanoes: encounters through the ages for the Reading Geological Society

Professor David Pyle has curated an exhibition and written a book entitled “Volcanoes: Encounters through the Ages”. For centuries, volcanic eruptions have captured our imaginations. Whether as signposts to an underworld, beacons to ancient mariners, or as an extraordinary manifestation of the natural world, volcanoes have intrigued many people, who have left records of their encounters in letters, reports and diaries and through sketches and illustrations. He tells the stories of volcanic eruptions around the world, using original illustrations and first-hand accounts to explore how our understanding of volcanoes has evolved through time. Written accounts include Pliny’s description of the 79 CE eruption of Vesuvius, stories recounted by seventeenth-century sea-farers, and reports of expeditions made by eighteenth- and nineteenth-century natural historians, including Alexander von Humboldt and Charles Darwin. Illustrations range from fragments of scrolls, buried in the great eruption of Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii, to Athanasius Kircher’s extraordinarily detailed sketches, made in the seventeenth century, to the spectacular London sunsets caused by Krakatoa’s eruption in 1883. He also includes the first photograph of a volcanic eruption and twenty-first-century imaging of Santorini. These varied and compelling accounts enrich our perspective on current studies of volcanoes and challenge us to think about how we might use our contemporary understanding of volcanology to prepare for the next big eruption.

David Pyle is a volcanologist, with broad interests in understanding how volcanoes work, and in the causes and consequences of volcanic activity. Active research topics include: using historical sources to extend our knowledge of past eruptions and their societal impacts; understanding the response of volcanoes in once-glaciated regions to the end of the last glaciation; and piecing together records of past volcanism, and understanding contemporary volcanic risk, in the Ethiopian Rift Valley. He is currently Professor of Earth Sciences at the University of Oxford.

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