pISSN 0705-3797 eISSN 2586-1298
HOME Article View


Episodes 2004; 27(4): 284-292

Published online September 1, 2004


Copyright © International Union of Geological Sciences.

Science and Honour: The 11th International Geological Congress in Stockholm 1910

Björn Sundquist1 and Christer Nordlund2

1Scientific Biography Center, Falkvägen 2, SE-75756 Uppsala, Sweden. E-mail: bjorn.sundquist@swipnet.se
2Department of Historical Studies, Umeå University, SE-90187 Umeå, Sweden. E-mail: christer.nordlund@histstud.umu.se

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0) which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


In the late 19th and the early 20th century, with expanding industrialism and urbanisation, the idea of the nation state grew strong in Sweden. In this nationalistic environment, nature and the natural sciences assumed an important unifying role. The search for natural resources and sources of energy inspired political support and research. The exploitation of nature was looked upon as a prerequisite for the modernization of the country, and indeed was to become the basis for Sweden's welfare. It was under these circumstances that, in 1906, the 11th IGC was invited to Stockholm in 1910. A request for a Government grant focused on the international development of science but also stressed the national importance. Sweden had, it was said, its ranking position among nations to defend, to uphold its position among civilized nations, and to maintain its distinguished tradition in the spheres of natural sciences and mining operations.
 The main topics of the Congress were iron ore resources, post-glacial climate change, glacial erosion, the Cambrian fauna, geology of the Precambrian, and geology of the polar regions. Three exhibitions and 24 excursions were arranged, and 41 guidebooks printed. The number of members present was 625, from 37 countries and six continents. The final cost for arranging the 11th IGC was SEK 125,000 (approximately €540,000 today). A novel experience in the tradition of the IGCs was the world-wide inquiries about the resources of iron ore and about climate change. Such thematic, worldwide investigations subsequently came to attract the attention of many IGCs. A proposition to establish a commission for the publication of an international stratigraphic dictionary was approved by the Congress, and a subcommission was set up with commissioners from ten countries, but it was not until 1956 that the first volumes of Lexique Stratigraphique International appeared. From a Swedish point of view, the Congress compelled Swedish geologists to carry out an inventory of the results of Swedish geological research of about half a century. The Congress was, in other words, an incentive to finish ongoing projects and bring together summaries of the major research areas. In the history of Swedish geosciences there is thus reason to speak about a pre- and a post-1910.