Escholt, Mikkel Pedersön

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Escholt, Mikkel Pedersön

(b. ca. 1610; d. Christiania [now Oslo], Norway, 1669)


The date and place of Escholt’s birth are unknown; he first appears in the register of Copenhagen University for 1628 as coming from Malmö. He studied theology in Copenhagen and became chaplain of the castle at Akershus Castle in Christiania in 1646. He seems to have acted as an intelligence officer during the campaigns to reconquer the provinces lost by Denmark-Norway to Sweden by the treaty of Brömsebro (1645). In 1660 he was rewarded with the parish of Vestby in Östfold. When he died his oldest son inherited the parish.

His present scientific reputation stems from his book Geologia norvegica (Oslo, 1657). It is the first scientific treatise printed in Norway and also one of the first books printed in Norwegian. The book was written to calm the populace who felt doom approaching because of the slight but distinctly felt earthquake of 24 April 1657. The book gives a clear and surprisingly modern view of geological phenomena, with numerous apt references from both classic and recent literature. Escholt demonstrated the rather unusual regularity of the earthquakes (two each century) in the Oslo region and was aware of the relationship of earthquakes to volcanism. He was the first to use the word “geology” in the modern sense—as the science of the earth. Through an English translation of his book (1662), the word came into use in the scientific literature in the following decade.

His only other known works are brilliantly written but highly polemic theological papers. Escholt does not seem to have influenced or been in contact with contemporary scientists in Copenhagen, and he is barely mentioned in Garboe’s exhaustive history of geology in Denmark.


I. Original Works. Escholt’s only scientific work is his Geologia norvegica (Oslo, 1657; English trans., 1662). A facsimile ed. was published in 1957.

II. Secondary Literature. See A. Garboe, Geologiens historie i Denmark, I (Copenhagen, 1959), 11, 47. A number of short notes, especially concerning Escholt’s early use of the word “geology,” have appeared in Scandinavian journals and newspapers.

Nils Spjeldnaes

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Escholt, Mikkel Pedersön

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