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Episodes 2005; 28(4): 279-285

Published online December 1, 2005


Copyright © International Union of Geological Sciences.

Ignacy Domeyko–an early investigator of Andean geology

Algimantas Grigelis

Section of Geosciences Lithuanian Academy of Sciences Lithuanian Society of Ignacy Domeyko Gedimino Ave. 3, LT-01103 Vilnius Lithuania
E-mail: grigelis@geo.lt

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.


I don't want very much–just to be useful to others while I am alive, otherwise life is not worth living.
Ignacy Domeyko
Letter to Onufry Pietraszkiewicz, 1820

There is time for everything when there is a will and God's blessing; and of all the miseries that people complain about in this world, the only one I have not yet experienced is boredom.
Ignacy Domeyko
My Journeys: Memoirs of an Exile, 1962–1963

In 2002, the name of Ignacy Domeyko was listed in UNESCO's list of famous persons. The bicentenary of this famous nineteenth-century scholar and teacher, geologist, mineralogist, and ethnographer was widely celebrated in Chile, Lithuania, Belarus, Poland, France (Grigelis, ed., 2002).
Ten years after his arrival in Chile, Domeyko published an article entitled Mémoire sur la constitution géologique de Chili (Annales des Mines, Series 4, Volume 9, 1846), in which he suggested an ongoing tectonic factor forming the Andean Cordilleras:

Tout annonce que le principal mouvement qui survint à l'êpoque de la formation des Andes arriva du côté de l'Ouest, c'est-à-dire du côté où une ligne d'escarpements qui marquent le rivage actuel de l'Ocean depuis le cap Horn jusqu'aux montagnes Rocheuses, continue à se soulever d'une manière lente et à peine perceptible, au mugissement des bruits souterrains et sous l'influence des tremblements de terre répétés (p. 414).*

This suggestion was far ahead of its time. More than a century later, the theory of plate tectonics confirmed the existence of the Nazca Plate moving eastwards from the Pacific Ocean, fundamentally affecting the geological structure of the Andes (Maksaev and Zentilli, 1999).