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Geoscientist Online

Dictionary of Mathematical Geosciences


Browsing a dictionary is one way of picking up a foreign language, if there is no ready access to a native speaker.  To the extent that the names of mathematical methods are generally as foreign to geologists as the names of rocks are to mathematicians, this substantial dictionary of mathematical geosciences should be welcomed as a weighty addition to geological libraries. 

In the modern digital era, where Google can provide instantaneous answers for any dictionary query, the need for a dictionary in paper or electronic format may be questioned.  However, as with language dictionaries, the act of looking up something can serendipitously lead to an extra gain of knowledge.  Nobody who browses this dictionary can fail to learn something interesting, even if tangential to their original query.

Any dictionary of mathematical geosciences of finite size carries the personal imprint of the compiler.  Richard Howarth received his PhD at the University of Bristol and specialized in the statistical interpretation of geological and geochemical data as well as the history of the use of quantitative methods in geology and early geophysics.  He worked for Shell International where he undertook computer programming and statistical analysis for a research project relating the hydrocarbon production of world-wide sedimentary basins to their geology.

As an Imperial College lecturer in the Applied Geochemistry Research Group, he researched the application of statistical and computing methods to mapping and interpretation of regional geochemical survey data for mineral exploration, geological and epidemiological purposes. 

Howarth’s broad experience in industry and academia qualifies him as much as anyone else to produce his dictionary of mathematical geosciences, but inevitably some subjects are treated in greater depth than others.  His personal interest in the history of the development of quantitative methods is evident throughout, with abundant references to geoscientists who have made substantial contributions.  

Some readers may be disappointed that their own particular field of geoscientific enquiry is not as well represented as those with which Howarth is most familiar from his own career.  Hopefully, this disappointment will be compensated by the reward of finding new nuggets of information and insight that may prove very useful.  Some readers may be delighted to find some topics treated in considerable detail, bordering that of a basic mathematical dictionary.  Being expensively priced, this volume is unlikely to be found outside libraries (though an e-book is available); but there it should be often browsed. 

Reviewed by Gordon Woo

DICTIONARY OF MATHEMATICAL GEOSCIENCES WITH HISTORICAL NOTES by RICHARD J HOWARTH  2017 Springer International Publishing ISBN 978-3-319-57314-4 (hbk).  893 List Price: £222.50 e-Book: £178.00 W: