Structural Geology: History And Object Of Study

The structural geology is the branch of geology that is responsible for studying the geometric relationships of rocks and geological features (of the globe) in general. This branch of geological sciences encompasses a large number of objects of study.

The study of rock deformation can include a large or small scale analysis. In addition, this science allows to know information corresponding to possible problems that could derive from the modification of the rock structure. In many cases, the studies are carried out alongside the application of other branches of geology.

Among the analyzes that can be derived from structural geology are possible risks related to natural phenomena, such as earthquakes and landslides.

The study of this science tends to apply two methodologies. The first is on a large scale; This gives the possibility of working with a small sample manually, through the use of microscopes. The second methodology is small-scale and requires more extensive field work.


18th century, when the foundations are laid

The foundations of structural geology as a science began to develop in the 18th century. In this century, the Swiss physician and naturalist Johannes Scheuchzer presented in 1708 a landscape representation of Lake Uri, located in central Switzerland.

In his work he made a representation of the existing geological folds and faults in the place. The work allowed several scientists to make various publications during the following years. These represented important contributions to the geology of the time.

The analyzes on geological folds and fractures of the mountains were carried out as a consequence of the development of structural geology. This allowed in 1740 to develop the theory of the development of mountains worldwide.

In addition, the study of soil minerals was another of the most important works in this branch of geology. The various investigations allowed to throw theories on the formation of mountains and their classification, the advance and retreat of the seas, observations on rocks, among other contributions.

During the second half of the 18th century, structural geology began to receive input from prominent geological experts, such as Lehmann, Arduino, Ferber, and Michell.

XIX century, the era of specialization

During the nineteenth century, approximately a century after the foundations of structural geology were laid, experts in the area specifically established which studies covered this branch of geology. This was possible thanks to previous research by other experts.

Object of study

Structural geology is the science that is responsible for the study of the geometric relationships of rocks, as well as geological characteristics in general. This branch of science studies a variety of natural phenomena related to geological formations.

Structural geology is responsible for making a three-dimensional study of rocks and using measurements of their geometric pattern to determine the history of their deformation. This analysis is usually carried out on a large and small scale.

The possibility of knowing this information allows creating a link with geological events that occurred in the past. This gives the possibility of understanding the evolution of the structure of a certain rocky area by analyzing its formation.

Importance of science

Structural geology is of great importance to other branches of science. It directly influences the economy and mining, because the studies produced by this science allow evaluating the deposits that are generated by the failures of the rock structure.

Furthermore, the study of the physical and mechanical properties of rocks is fundamental for the application of engineering in geology. Rock conditions can affect the structure of human works such as dams or tunnels.

Structural geology, in combination with geomorphology (science that studies the shapes of the earth’s surface), allows human beings to carry out analyzes on the existing risks caused by nature. For example, it is possible to study why an earthquake occurs.

On the other hand, it also allows you to analyze the possibilities of landslides or collapses.

The study of the effect of water penetration in soils is also possible thanks to this science in conjunction with environmental hydrology. This makes it possible to identify, among other things, the leakage of toxic substances into the depths of the ground.

Small-scale study methods

Small-scale analyzes allow the use of study methods including transmission electron microscopes. This instrument allows a large enlargement of the sample to be analyzed.

The methodology applied to small-scale work also includes manual studies of a sample that was collected in the field to be analyzed.

Large-scale study methods

In those investigations carried out on a large scale, the studies require a field investigation . For this, geological maps are usually made that allow observing the regional distribution of the selected areas. The study areas are then represented on a map that is used as a guide.

In the same way, the mapping also has details about the orientation of the characteristics of the structure. This includes faults, folds, and other geological phenomena.

One of the main objectives of this type of research is to make an interpretation as accurate as possible about the structure that is at a certain depth below the earth’s surface.

To carry out this work, the information that the surface can provide is very useful. Despite this, drilling in the ground or opening mines can provide more precise information about the structure of the rocks that are in the subsoil.

There are other types of maps that are very useful for large-scale studies. For example, those that allow to reflect the surroundings of an elevation of terrestrial layers in relation to sea level. Maps that allow representing variations in the thickness of a particular area are also useful.


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  3. The Origins of Structural Geology, E. Martínez García, (nd). Taken from
  4. Study Of The Structure Of The Earth, editors of Encyclopedia Britannica, (nd). Taken from
  5. Structural Geology, Wikipedia in Spanish, (nd). Taken from

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