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Kant's theory of earthquakes and volcanic action

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In response to the Lisbon earthquake of 1 November 1755, and the subsequent seismic activity in Europe, Kant wrote several articles on earthquakes and volcanic phenomena. Full translations of the most important parts of these articles are presented, and summaries for the remainder. Kant developed a carefully worked out theory to account for seismic activity, based on his reading of the scientific literature, the reports received in Königsberg of the Lisbon earthquake and associated events, and his general theory of the origin of the Earth's crust, as presented in his Allgemeine Naturgeschichte of 1755. Following Lémery, Kant supposed that volcanic action was due to the subterranean combination of sulphur and iron, and he rejected the suggestion that earthquakes might be due to the gravitational pull of heavenly bodies. Kant's theory was naturalistic, but his account was not wholly divorced from physicotheological considerations.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: School of German Studies, University of New South Wales, Kensington, N.S.W., 2033, Australia 2: School of History and Philosophy of Science, University of New South Wales, Kensington, N.S.W., 2033, Australia

Publication date: May 1, 1983

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