The Virtual Geoscience Revolution: From William Smith to Virtual Outcrop

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John A. Howell , Brian S Burnham 


In 1799 an English surveyor named William Smith published the World’s first geological map. This map, which covers the whole of England and Wales, fundamentally changed the way that geologists visualised the subsurface (Winchester, 2001). For the next 200 years, field geologists across the World worked in much the same way as Smith had done, tracing geological boundaries on the ground and using ink pens and coloured pencils to record the surface expression of the geology onto paper and maps. Even today, the largest single component of any undergraduate degree in the UK is a “mapping project”, where students make detailed maps of a selected area in this way. There can be very few sciences where there have been no significant changes in the basic data collection methods for over 200 years. However, since the turn of the 21st Century we have seen a quiet revolution in the way in which field data are being collected, analysed and displayed. We call this the Virtual Geoscience Revolution and it has come about in a number of discrete phases, each of which have resulted from the development of a number of distinct but parallel technologies.



Earth Sciences


UAV, Photogrammetry, Digital Outcrop Model, Virtual Outcrop Model


Published: 2021-07-29 10:53

Last Updated: 2021-07-29 14:53


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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