Deeming (2014) Perrault, Hydrological Cycle and Scientific Revolution

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Deming, D., 2014. Pierre Perrault, the hydrologic cycle and the scientific revolution. Groundwater, 52(1), pp.156-162.


From the Introduction: "One of the oldest problems in geology is the nature of the hydrologic cycle. What is the source of the water that maintains the flow of rivers and springs? The problem is summarized elegantly in Ecclesiastes, “all the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full.” There had to be some return flow from the sea back to the land, but how this took place was an unsettled question for thousands of years.

The person who first took a quantitative approach to understanding the nature of the hydrologic cycle was the French writer, Pierre Perrault (1611 to 1680). In De l'origine des fontaines (The Origin of Springs) (1674), Perrault demonstrated that rainfall was sufficient to account for river flow by making quantitative estimates of both precipitation and discharge in a basin of the Seine River (Figure 1). In this historical note, I review and evaluate the significance of De l'origine des fontaines in the context of the Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries in Europe. Perrault's work in hydrogeology is an illustration of how a generalized experimental method displaced the deductive logic employed in natural philosophy."



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