Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
First-Year Seminar


FYS Section A07. Deep Time

History is written on more than paper, or vellum, or papyrus, or clay tablets. It is written in the remains of meals and campfires from a time when mastodons roamed the land. It is written in the buried bones of our distant ancestors and the fossilized shells of our distant cousins. It is written in layers of mud and sand and lava, accumulated over hundreds of millions of years. If we try to go further back into the book of Earth history, we find most of the pages missing or shredded. But as we look at the evidence preserved on our neighboring worlds, we can construct history back to four and a half billion years ago. Ultimately, we cannot look back farther than 13.7 billion years, in the faint glow at the edge of the observable universe. In this seminar we will take a sweeping view of time, learning how we reconstruct events from the big bang to the present, and we will contemplate the legacy of human impact on the Earth in the distant future.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This course will begin with a four-day pre-orientation trip, crossing slices of ancient continents from Avalonia to North America, and reconstructing the last billion years of history in the Appalachians. Students who take this course must arrive on campus by August 17 to participate in the trip. The trip will involve camping and hiking; if you have a physical condition that may limit your involvement in such activities or any other disability-related needs, please notify us before July 1 so that reasonable accommodations can be made. To be admitted to this seminar, you must send an email to gcollins@wheatoncollege.edu stating that you agree to arrive on campus early.

Geoffrey CollinsGeoffrey Collins
Professor of Geology