Earth Science

Earth Science

If you are interested in pursuing a degree or finding a job in the field of Earth sciences, everything you need is here. Find the best schools, career information, history of the discipline, influential people in the field, great books, and more.

What Is Earth science?

Earth science encompasses the study of the Earth, its atmosphere, the materials and substances that compose them, and the processes that produce weather patterns, climate shifts, geological events, and more. The Earth sciences field is composed of four primary sub-disciplines-geology, meteorology, oceanography, and astronomy. This makes the Earth sciences discipline is an excellent point of entry into a wide range of careers in areas like conservation, environmental science, green technology, climatology, and much more.

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The Best Colleges and Universities for Earth Sciences Degrees

Best Earth Sciences Major Research Universities

  1. Harvard University
  2. MIT – Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  3. Stanford University
  4. Columbia University
  5. University of Chicago

Go to The Best Earth Sciences Research Universities

Best Earth Sciences Major Liberal Arts Colleges

  1. Pomona College
  2. Middlebury College
  3. Swarthmore College
  4. Amherst College
  5. Williams College

Go to The Best Earth Sciences Liberal Arts Colleges

Best Environmental Science Major Liberal Arts Colleges

  1. University of California, Berkeley
  2. Harvard University
  3. Stanford University
  4. Duke University
  5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Go to The Best Environmental Science Programs and Professors

To view the entire list of top Earth science schools, including schools offering online degrees and a breakdown of the best Earth science colleges and universities in your state, visit our look at the Best Colleges and Universities for Earth Sciences Degrees.

For a dynamic, real-time listing of the most influential Earth sciences schools in the world, use our Custom College Ranking.

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The Best Online Earth Science Degrees

Earth sciences is an interdisciplinary field that encompasses a wide range of sub disciplines. Whether you pursue a general degree in Earth sciences or a degree in a key area of concentration, there are numerous fully accredited online degree options.

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History of the Earth Sciences Discipline

Earth sciences constitutes one of the oldest academic disciplines in the scientific tradition. Indeed, scholars have studied the oceans, lands and weather for as long as humans could formulate rational thought. Our history begins in the modern era with a reflection on the key moments shaping this discipline in just the last century-and-a-half. Below are a few highlights from our 4-part seriesA Brief History of the Earth Sciences:

  1. Michele Stefano de Rossi and François-Alphonse Forel created the first scale to represent earthquake intensities, which by 1873 had ten well-defined intensity levels.
  2. Pierre Curie , Marie Curie and Henri Becquerel shared the newly created Nobel Prize in 1903 for the discovery and methods associated with radioactivity.
  3. Walter M. Elsasser published a series of papers in the 1930s and 1940s illuminating the origin of the earth’s magnetic fields.
  4. Harry Hammond Hess published a manuscript called History of Ocean Basins in 1962, which for several years was the most cited publication in the Earth sciences.
  5. Al Gore ’s 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth brought greater public attention to the threat of global climate change.
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Earth Science Degrees

What will I study as an Earth sciences major?

Majors in Earth sciences can study subjects such as mineralogy, climatology, hydrology, paleontology, agriculture, conservation, and preservation. You will likely be required to take a number of requisite courses on foundational science topics like biology and biochemistry, but beyond that, specific courses may depend on your concentration. Such courses could include Earth Materials, Atmospheric Thermodynamics, Sedimentation and Tectonics, Radioactivity, and much more.

What can I do With a degree in Earth science?

Earth sciences gives you the opportunity to contribute to advances in sustainability, alternative energies, environmental conservation, agriculture, food production, and much more. With such a wide range of specialization options, Earth sciences majors have an equally wide selection of career paths, including jobs as Geoscientists, Geological and Petroleum Technicians. Atmospheric Scientists and Meteorologists, Environmental Scientists and Specialists, Hydrologists, Environmental Science and Protection Technicians, and more.

How To Get a Degree in Earth Sciences

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Who are the top Earth scientists in history?

The following are the top Earth sciences influencers in history (1800-2020) according to our machine-powered Influence Rankings, which are drawn from a numerical score of academic achievements, merits, and citations across Wikipedia/data, Crossref, and an ever-growing body of data.

  1. Alfred Wegener was a German polar researcher, geophysicist and meteorologist primarily known is his lifetime for his achievements in meteorology and as a pioneer of polar research, and recognized today as the originator of continental drift hypothesis.
  2. William Morris Davis was an American geographer, geologist, geomorphologist, and meteorologist, often called the “father of American geography”.
  3. Arthur Newell Strahler was a geoscience professor at Columbia University who in 1952 developed the Strahler Stream Order system for classifying streams according to the power of their tributaries.
  4. Harry Hammond Hess was an American geologist and a United States Navy officer in World War II who is considered one of the “founding fathers” of the unifying theory of plate tectonics.
  5. Vasily Dokuchaev was a Russian geologist and geographer who is credited with laying the foundations of soil science.
  6. Alexander von Humboldt was a German polymath, geographer, naturalist, explorer, a proponent of Romantic philosophy and science and the leading pioneer in modern geomagnetic and meteorological monitoring.
  7. Auguste Bravais was a French physicist known for his work in crystallography, the conception of Bravais lattices, and the formulation of Bravais law.
  8. William Hallowes Miller was a Welsh mineralogist who laid the foundations of modern crystallography.
  9. Alfred Russel Wallace was a British naturalist, explorer, geographer, anthropologist, biologist and illustrator who is best known for independently conceiving the theory of evolution through natural selection.
  10. Edward Norton Lorenz was an American mathematician and meteorologist who established the theoretical basis of weather and climate predictability, as well as the basis for computer-aided atmospheric physics and meteorology, and who is best known as the founder of modern chaos theory.

Now that you have a bird’s eye view of some of the most influential Earth scientists of all time, explore these pioneers and others in more depth.

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Who are the top Earth scientists today?

The following are the top influencers in the field of Earth sciences today according to our machine-powered Influence Rankings, which are drawn from a numerical score of academic achievements, merits, and citations across Wikipedia/data, Crossref, and an ever-growing body of data.

  1. Christopher Jackson is a professor of geology at Imperial College London whose work has focused on the evolution of sedimentary basins through stratigraphic, structural, and geodynamic forces.
  2. Robert Hazen is an astrobiologist and mineralogist, the Clarence Robinson Professor of Earth science at George Mason University and the Executive Director of the Deep Carbon Observatory, a global research study of the impacts of carbon.
  3. Naomi Oreskes is a Professor of the History of Science, and an Affiliated Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University whose body of work has encompassed geology, scientific methods, climate change, plate tectonics and the history and philosophy of science..
  4. Michael E. Mann is the director of the Earth System Science Center for Pennsylvania State University, a climatologist, and geophysicist whose work has resulted in new techniques for recording and evaluating past climate data and how to distinguish between useful climate data and statistical noise.
  5. Clive Oppenheimer is a professor of volcanology at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Geography and has done substantial research work in Antarctica.
  6. Richard Alley is the Evan Pugh Professor of Geosciences at Pennsylvania State University and among the most highly cited researchers in the world.
  7. Isabelle Daniel is a mineralogist for the Claude Bernard University Lyon 1 whose research has focused on mineral interactions under the most extreme conditions available and the extreme pressure or temperatures create conditions inhospitable for life.
  8. Marcia McNutt Marcia McNutt is the 22nd President of the United States’ National Academy of Sciences.
  9. Julie Arblaster is a scientist and professor at the School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment at Monash University.
  10. Jesse Ausubel is the Director of the Program for the Human Environment and Senior Research Associate at The Rockefeller University, chair of the Richard Lounsbery Foundation, a former executive of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and an environmental scientist.

Learn about more of today’s leading Earth scientists.

Interviews with Top Thinkers in Earth Science

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Great Books About The Earth Sciences

The following are the most influential books in the field of Earth sciences today according to our backstage Ranking Analytics tool, which calculates the influence of various sources in both academics and popular culture using a numerical scoring of citations across Wikipedia/data, Crossref, and an ever-growing body of data.

  1. Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Climate Change by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway presents several public controversies concerning the scientific basis for public policy, from the link between cigarette smoking and cancer, to military strategy, to acid rain, to the ozone layer of the atmosphere, to global warming.
  2. Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne is a work of fiction which recounts an expedition of geologists who enter the earth’s crust through an extinct volcano in Iceland and wend their way down to a prehistoric world that has survived at the earth’s core, encountering a variety of diverting adventures along the way.
  3. Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History by Stephen Jay Gould is a philosophical intervention in the struggle to update the Modern Synthesis of Darwinian evolutionary theory in the light of a more realistic interpretation of the fossil record.
  4. Agenda 21: Earth Summit: The United Nations Programme of Action from Rio by the United Nations Division for Sustainable Development is an action program for global sustainable development for the twenty-first century.
  5. Basic Paleontology by Michael Benton and David Harper is the most influential undergraduate-level textbook in the field of paleontology-a field that covers topics from a number of adjacent disciplines, including above all geology, botany, zoology, and evolutionary theory.
  6. Basic Paleontology by Michael Benton and David Harper is the most influential undergraduate-level textbook in the field of paleontology—a field that covers topics from a number of adjacent disciplines, including above all geology, botany, zoology, and evolutionary theory.
  7. The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs by Charles Darwin advanced his theory-which first occurred to him in South America, but was later corroborated by first-hand observation in the Keeling Islands-that the different kinds of coral reefs and atolls could all be explained by means of a single mechanism of uplift and subsidence of the earth’s crust at the ocean floor.
  8. Our Common Future by the World Commission on Environment and Development includes discussion of a wide variety of issues, from ecosystems to energy sources to urbanization, and ends with specific suggestions for institutional and legal change.
  9. The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines by Michael E. Mann discusses his famous “hockey stick” graph, which has become a vivid symbol of the mainstream view that the recent warming of the earth is largely due to human activity.
  10. Meteorology by Aristotle focuses on the phenomena associated with the “upper atmosphere” (ta meteōra), including such things as rain, thunderstorms, lightning, tornadoes, meteors, and comets (which Aristotle mistakenly believed are found in the upper atmosphere).
  11. Geological Evidences of the Antiquity of Man by Charles Lyell presented evidence in favor of the uniformitarian theory of the history of the earth and had a profound influence on the young Charles Darwin after his return home from circumnavigating the globe on board H.M.S. Beagle.

Learn about more great Earth sciences books.

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Earth Sciences Controversial Topics

The Earth sciences discipline has been shaped by profound but often competing hypotheses on critical subjects like energy, climate change, meteorological patterns, ecological balance, and much more. As a result, the Earth sciences discipline is an important forum for numerous meaningful public debates. Read on for a look at some of the top controversies connected to the Earth sciences discipline.

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Feature Topics in Earth Sciences

Earth sciences is a dynamic field where new findings, achievements and innovations continue to have a profound impact on the real world. Our features emphasize the individuals and innovations driving the Earth sciences discipline forward today.