Yale University Press
July 1, 1978
In this fascinating history of the universe and its inhabitants, one of America’s most distinguished biogeologists leads us from the evolution of the cosmos to speculation on the future of mankind. Preston Cloud begins with the atom, the smallest known world out of which all other worlds are made. From the behavior of protons, neutrons, and their satellite electrons, he turns to the behavior of galaxies and the birth and death of stars, focusing on the lifecycle of our solar system and our own small planet. Cloud describes the stages by which Earth, its atmosphere, and its oceans slowly became inhabitable by primitive, then more complex, forms of life. In considerable detail he explains the controversial chemistry by which life may have first been born into an inanimate universe.
Tracing the evolution of plants and animals, Cloud demonstrates how the relatively recent development of the genus of primate mammals that calls itself homo sapiens could have a disastrous effect on the planet. In a provocative final chapter, Cloud places mankind within the framework of this evolving global habitat and proposes a program for the survival of the human race.
This book is one of the enormous range in complexity written in an admirably straightforward and lucid style. Without pretending that the events and processes he describes are simple, Cloud makes them accessible to the thoughtful reader. His final, disturbing chapters are written with the dispassionate authority of a scientist and the humanity of a profoundly concerned citizen of the universe.
Preston Cloud has had a long and distinguished career in biogeology, a scientific discipline that he helped to create. The extraordinary range of this field – it involves atomic physics and the origins and evolution of the universe, Earth, and all forms of life – is reflected in Cosmos, Earth, and Man. Trained as a paleontologist, Cloud spent World War II searching for strategic minerals with the United States geological survey, for which institution he later did extensive geological mapping in and under the Pacific Ocean. From 1949 to 1961 he was the Survey’s chief paleontologist, advancing its work in stratigraphy and planning its marine geology program.
As head of the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Minnesota, Cloud turned his attention to two questions that have occupied him since 1961: the evolution of the early lithosphere and biosphere and the effects of human population growth on the Earth’s resources and the environment. At various times Cloud has also taught at Harvard and the universities of California at Los Angeles and at Santa Barbara, where he is now professor emeritus of biogeology and environmental studies. He remains a research biogeologist with the USGS. A member of several honorary societies and holder of many scientific awards, Cloud is known in his field has a pioneer in paleontology, marine sedimentology, and biogeology. He is the author of an influential model of primitive Earth and the evolution of life, air, water, and sedimentary rock.