Georgius Agricola, German minerologist and metallurgist, mid 16th century.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Agricola (1494-1555) was a pioneer of mining and chemical technology. He was among the first to recognise that rivers had erosive powers that influenced the forming of landscapes. In 1546, he wrote the first book on physical geology, 'De Ortu et Causis Subterraneorum', which was noted for its descriptions of wind and water as powerful geological forces and for the explanations of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.