Berkeley -- Italy's mountains, from the Apennines to the Alps, have fascinated University of California, Berkeley, geologist Walter Alvarez for more than 35 years, resulting in a new book, "The Mountains of Saint Francis," that traces Italy's billion-year geologic history with a focus on Italian geologists and their groundbreaking - and often overlooked - discoveries.
In the book, published this month by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. Alvarez, a UC Berkeley professor of earth and planetary science, takes readers on a tour of road cuts and quarries - and even a wine cellar - to sketch this history, weaving in affectionate portraits of the geologists Alvarez and his wife, Milly, have met since first visiting Italy in 1968.
"I thought it would be fun to write a book that had a lot of human interest in it as well as geology," Alvarez said. "Much as I like the science, I like my science mixed with culture and people and friendships and language."
Alvarez is the author of the acclaimed "T. rex and the Crater of Doom" (Princeton University Press, 1997) about his discovery with his father, Nobel Laureate Luis Alvarez, of a long-ago comet collision with Earth that coincided with the demise of the dinosaurs.
His new book revisits the site in Gubbio where he first discovered evidence preserved in a layer of rock that something catastrophic had occurred 65 million years ago at the boundary between the Cretaceous and Tertiary periods, when dinosaurs and many other creatures died out. But Alvarez also takes readers along the Apennine spine of Italy from Rome to Florence, jumping from there to the Alps, to explain how the Italian peninsula came to be. He refers to the Umbria-Marche Apennines as the Mountains of Saint Francis because of the many reminders of St. Francis of Assisi throughout the mountain range.
"If you spend time in that part of Italy, you are constantly coming face to face with the heritage and influence of St.
|Contact: Robert Sanders|
University of California - Berkeley