Founder of modern geology and young–Earth creationist

Nicolaus Steno has been recognized as making some of the first ‘truly great discoveries’ in geology.1 His fundamental principles of geology are still routinely used to interpret sedimentary rock layers. Although he is called a founder of modern geology, most geologists do not realize that it was Steno’s belief in the Bible, especially Genesis, that led him to make those discoveries.

Niels Stensen (as he was originally named) was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, on 10 January 1638. His father was a well–to–do goldsmith. Niels was brought up in Copenhagen as a Lutheran.


In 1656, Niels Stensen went to the University of Copenhagen to study anatomy and become a physician. He studied further in Amsterdam and Leyden in Holland. ‘While in Amsterdam [he] discovered the parotid salivary duct (ductus Stenorzarianus).’2 After four years at Leyden, he sought a position in Copenhagen but none was available. Instead, ‘he went to Paris, where he made important observations on the anatomy of the brain’.2

Stensen disproved the idea that the pineal gland was linked to human’s spiritual nature, by showing that animals, too, had a pineal gland. He also traced the human lymphatic system. ‘Although his contributions to our knowledge of the heart were soon overshadowed by William Harvey’s great experiments on circulation, he [Stensen] was still the first to show that the heart consists of two relatively independent pumps.’3

In 1665, Stensen went to Florence in Italy and became court physician to the Grand Duke of Tuscany. Here he changed his name from Niels Stensen to its Latinized form, Nicolaus Steno. Fortunately, the Grand Duke was happy for Steno to conduct his scientific research as well as act as physician….

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