Antonio Lazzaro Moro, an Italian geologist, was born Mar. 16, 1687. Moro was one of the founders of “vulcanism,” the idea that volcanoes have played an important role in shaping the face of the earth. In 1707, Moro, just 20 years old, had been impressed by the eruption of a submarine volcano. Originating near Santorini, an island north of Crete, the volcano grew over the next four years until it rose from the sea as a brand new island, bringing fossils and shells up from the ocean floor (third image above). It occurred to Moro that perhaps this was the origin of fossil-bearing rock—that volcanoes were responsible not only for creating new rock, but for uplifting stratified fossiliferous rock from the bed of the sea. Moro made his arguments in a book of 1740 called De’ crostacei e degli altri marini corpi che si truovano su’ monti (On Shells and other Marine Bodies that are Found on Mountains; second image). The book begins with a clever title-page vignette that depicts strata with shells being uplifted by an erupting volcano (first image). Other plates show a cross section of the earth, revealing its internal heat (fourth image), and a series of strata that were folded by volcanic forces (fifth image).

We displayed Moro’s book in our Vulcan’s Forge exhibition in 2004.

Dr. William B. Ashworth, Jr., Consultant for the History of Science, Linda Hall Library and Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Missouri-Kansas City. Comments or corrections are welcome; please direct to