Stepping Stones relaunch on-line

In 2000 I was approached by Ian Francis, then a commissioning editor at Blackwell Science if I would like to write a series of news items on advances in Earth Science for the publishers’ new website Earth-Pages. The invitation stemmed from his having read my recently published book Stepping Stones: The Making of Our Home World, which threaded a similar path through developments in the science that I helped to teach through the Open University. Ian’s initiative led to my learning a great deal by sifting through leading scientific journals, which became a weekly discipline. Much of what I commented on covered the eclectic spread of Stepping Stones, but I did not think of authoring a revised edition of the book until just a few years before I retired from the Open University in 2011. As they say; ‘what with one thing or another’ it took me another 7 or 8 years to galvanise myself for such a task. If you would like to have a look at the revised edition, it is now on-line at

The famous 3.6 Ma old hominin footsteps at Laetoli in Tanzania – Stepping Stones emblematic image. (Credit: Mary Leakey)

The famous 3.6 Ma old hominin footsteps at Laetoli in Tanzania – Stepping Stones emblematic image. (Credit: Mary Leakey)

Deciding to produce it in electronic form it occurred to me to make it a possible means of geoscience self-teaching by various devices, such as suggesting key words and phrases to find more in-depth material through a web browser and, equally important, to find useful images. Fifteen years of working on over 800 posts for Earth-Pages and the publications that they were about made revising Stepping Stones a quicker task than I had anticipated. Then it dawned on me that I had written a lot more on various topics for Earth-Pages than I had in the new project. So the Earth-Pages archive is a possibly valuable learning resource, if you can navigate through it, which is not always easy. Being the source for most of the new additions to the book’s Further Reading in, inserting links from each reference to the appropriate post in the Earth-Pages archive was easy.

Oh, and another thing, so few published science authors gain satisfaction from royalties, I decided Stepping Stones v.2.0 should be free!

16 responses to “Stepping Stones relaunch on-line

  1. I didn’t quite cry when I read this, but my eyes felt like crying… with surprise and joy. A friend only recently introduced me to the first edition of Stepping Stones. I am loving it. I am neither an educated geologist nor a disciplined student of science. And the reading is very hard going. But I love it, and I love the struggle to understand it. And now… to discover that you have published a revised edition online… with free access… causes me only brief agony [since I’ll be off the grid in the mountains of Oregon for two weeks, and must await my return to begin reading]. And to also discover your writings on earth-pages… indeed, discovering earth-pages itself… is a glorious birthday present. Thank you so much, for your writing, and your role model.

    • Glad you are enjoying my efforts, Ken. Quite a testimonial! Thanks. Incidentally, what device are you using to read it – PC, tablet or smart phone?

      Enjoy Oregon!

      Steve Drury
      PS I must add a comments option at the Stepping Stones Home Page; each chapter has one

  2. Zbigniew Towalski

    Superb, and a big thank you Steve. I have started reading this version and will publicise it in the OUGS Walton Hall Branch Geo-Log.
    Kind regards
    Zbig Towalski

  3. drmartingraham

    Much appreciated. I loved the hardback and have endorsed the e-edition at

  4. Thanks for making this available Steve. It is a wonderful synthesis of what is presently know.

  5. I had Stepping Stones in my Amazon basket, then found the online, updated version.. I’m on Chapter 2. It reads as if written by a lucid, broadly informed scholar. I would expect such writing, such scholarship from Steve Drury.

    I was worried when earth pages went dark, but all is well now.

    Many thanks for this gift.

    Piso Mojado

    • Thanks for the encouragement Piso. I think it is an improvement on the 1999 edition, and writing for EArth-Pages helped a great deal in tidying and clarifying. Note the many links to E-P in the Further Reading posts.


      Steve Drury

  6. Chris Alexander

    Briilliant Steve……if you published this, I’d buy it!

    • Thanks Chris! Eventually I may self-publish it as an eBook – going through the normal publishing route is a pain, and royalties are a pittance. But having made a few quid on the first edition, I’d prefer this one to circulate free of charge; the question is, what is the best medium for that? I’ll see how the ‘blog’ form does for a while. It may be better to create PDFs of the seven parts for download. As regards an eBook, I need to find out how to do it myself. If you have any preferences among these three, do drop me a line.


      Steve Drury

      • Chrid Alexander

        Well, I’ve cut and pasted the first seven chapters into Word, and am reading it. A PDF version would be good but I’m afraid I get a great deal of satisfaction reading a book so that would be my preference. It makes a fascinating read, especially since my Geology degree time was 1978….such a lot has happened in the science and your book really brings everything together.

      • Chris Alexander

        Hi Steve, I’ve read the entire book and have now consolidated it into a single Word document with a table of contents……the index and table of figures have defeated me so far. I’ve tried to check it through and there are some words like glacigenic and glaciogenic that I might have used incorrectly. Anyhow, do you want me to send to to you? It’s only 21Mb…..;-). I’ve created a pdf version aswell which is 8 Mb.

        It’s an excellent read, by the way, and I would love to see it out as a book

        • I’m glad you enjoyed the read – it was fun to write in the first place and even to revise and bring up to date.
          You seem to have put in a lot of work, but I must decline your offer, as I have my own plans for improving accessibility, as I mentioned in reply to someone else’s comment today.
          Also, as copyright holder I must ask you not to redistribute what you have done. There is a good reason for that – many of the figures are subject to other people’s copyright, for which I obtained permissions when the First Edition was published.
          Best wishes
          Steve Drury

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