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Early methods of absolute age dating

Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article.Join Britannica's Publishing Partner Program and our community of experts to gain a global audience for your work! For the most part, these fossils allow various forms of information from the rock succession to be viewed in terms of their relative position in the sequence.Many independent estimates of the age of the Earth have been proposed, each made using a different method of analysis.Some such estimates were based on assumptions concerning the rate at which dissolved salts or sediments are carried by rivers, supplied to the world’s oceans, and allowed to accumulate over time.Although faced with problems of helium loss and therefore not quite accurate results, a major scientific breakthrough had been accomplished. Boltwood, working with the more stable uranium–lead system, calculated the numerical ages of 43 minerals.His results, with a range of 400 million to 2.2 billion years, were an order of magnitude greater than those of the other “quantitative” techniques of the day that made use of heat flow or sedimentation rates to estimate time. Perhaps much to their relief, paleontologists now had sufficient time in which to accommodate faunal change.

Based on these calculations, Joly proposed that the Earth had consolidated and that the oceans had been created between 80 and 90 million years ago.

These chemical and physical arguments (or a combination of both) were all flawed to varying degrees because of an incomplete understanding of the processes involved.

The notion that all of the salts dissolved in the John Joly in 1899.

The subsequent recognition that the ocean is not closed and that a continual loss of salts occurs due to sedimentation in certain environments severely limited this novel approach.

Equally novel but similarly flawed was the assumption that, if a cumulative measure of all rock successions were compiled and known rates of sediment accumulation were considered, the amount of time elapsed could be calculated.

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The quantification of geologic time remained an elusive matter for most human enquiry into the age of the Earth and its complex physical and biological history.

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