The Geological Sciences in the Service of Nigeria

Cooray, P. G. (1972-01-18)


In the year 1900. Charles Lapworth, the then President of the Geological Society of London, asked from the President's Chair: "What is this geology of which we are so proud and confident? What has it done for the mental or material benefit of the human race? And on what grounds does it justify its claims to respect and support as one of the facts in the advance of humanity?" These questions appear to be as relevant today as they were at the beginning of the century, and my address this evening, as the title indicates, attempts to answer the first rather briefly, the second in some detail in so far as it applies specifically to the people of Nigeria, and the third not at a". as the answer lies with you-mine would be strongly prejudiced in geology's favour! The main body of my address falls naturally into three parts, namely. the manner in which the geological sciences have served Nigeria in the past, the ways in which they will continue to serve her in the future. and the contribution that the Department of Geology and Applied Geology at the University of Ife has made and will continue to make in the provision and growth of this service. But first some definitions are necessary. The science of geology, which is more than 200 years old, springs from two main sources-the consideration of the origin of rocks, and the study of minerals and crystals from the old mining districts of Germany. This is neither the time nor the place to delve into the history of our science-suffice it to say that until relatively recently geology was largely an observational science with little or no relation to the other physical sciences. Today the plctureTs very different. and the barriers between geology and chemistry, geology and physics. and geology and mathematics are being broken down as fast as they are between physics and chemistry. and chemistry and biology. It is for this reason -dissatisfaction with the limitations of the term "geology"-that I have chosen the wider term "geological sciences" for the purpose of this talk. Geology is in essence earth history and it uses every available .rneans to decipher this history. We can therefore say that the geological sciences are the various branches of geology and allied subjects that help to unravel earth history .