Werner, Abraham Gottlob [key], 1750–1817, German geologist. In 1775 he became inspector and teacher in the mining academy at Freiberg, which through his efforts became one of the leading schools in Germany. In the last part of the 18th cent. he was the most notable figure in the investigation of rocks and minerals; he called the new science geognosy and defined it as the study of the layers of mineral matter. He was the first to classify minerals systematically. According to his theory of neptunism, the earth was originally an ocean of water from which were precipitated the solid rocks now forming most of the dry land. Although much of his theory has been rejected, geology is indebted to him for the application of chronology to rock formations as well as for his precise definitions.
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