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Geoscientist Online

Folding and Fracturing of Rocks: 50 Years of Research since the Seminal Textbook of J. G. Ramsay

folding fracturing coverThe study of rock structure sometimes appears to be in danger of being confounded by the use of poorly defined terms that may be both restricting to thought and confusing to the reader. In the past the study of rock deformation has often avoided the precision of real mathematical formulation to escape into a specialized type of obscure symbolic jargon. (Ramsay, 1967)

When reflecting upon the original lectures and the book, it is obvious that the person who wrote those words believed in using clear, relatively plain and unambiguous language to describe the subject matter. Indeed, on rereading my own copy of the original book, I am struck by the utter practical clarity of expression, which has stood the test of time. 

Ramsay also espoused three further tenets in his work as a lecturer; getting the fundamentals right through the use of mathematical reasoning, use of practical modelling and providing field examples to assess theory against hard reality.

This Special Publication is a homage to the original book and its author; indeed the sequence of the papers follow from that work. Techniques of data collection, analysis and the graphics of presentation have all changed, but this body of literature is clearly from the same school of thought.

Disciples and followers have gone forth and developed and applied the methods over 50 years, and so this book is a report back on what some of those people have achieved with those original concepts.

However, have these disciples upheld the primary tenet, that of clear and plain communication style? Indeed, is it even appropriate to ask that question? Well, unless the publication is only intended for a small select group, then really we have to use the question as a test. The answer, in my mind at least, comes in the form of the paper Where have all the buckles gone?  (Butler et al), which concludes that ‘they are all still there’ - although in the process of fleshing out detail, simplicity of expression and concept have been subjected to progressive creep, in my words.

This is a very impressive update on how folding and fracturing can be studied, with some very useful  and well-illustrated case histories; although some researchers here are treading a fine line between describing technical innovation and some obfuscation. So don’t forget Ramsay’s words - they are still very relevant today.

Reviewed by Arthur Tingley

FOLDING AND FRACTURING OF ROCKS: 50 YEARS OF RESEARCH SINCE THE SEMINAL TEXTBOOK OF J. G. RAMSAY, by C. E. Bond and H. D. Lebit (eds) 2020. Geological Society Special Publication 478, 352pp, hbk. www.geolsoc.org.uk/SP487