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He put forth three propositions, the first being this: "If a solid body is enclosed on all sides by another solid body, of the two bodies that one first became hard which, in the mutual contact, expresses on its own surface the properties of the other surface." (This may be clearer if we change "expresses" to "impresses" and switch "own" with "other.") While the "official" Principles pertain to layers of rock and their shapes and orientations, Steno's own principles were strictly about "solids within solids." Which of two things came first? Thus he could confidently state that fossil shells existed before the rock that enclosed them.And we, for example, can see that the stones in a conglomerate are older than the matrix that encloses them." virtually all sedimentary systems have stratigraphic disorder at come scale is probably a common feature of the fossil record " Fossils out of Sequences Cutler Palaios June 1990 on The conclusion of some scientists is that the Law of Superposition just doesn't work Shindewolf Comments on Some Stratigraphic Terms American Journal of Science June 1957 " Historical geology relies chiefly on paleontology the study of fossil organisms. The Law of Superposition makes logical sense but in practice it is the nature of the fossils found in the sedimentary layers that determine the relative ages of the rocks.The theory of descent with modification trumps the empirical evidence of superposition.The other principles are often called Steno's Laws, but this one stands alone at the foundation of crystallography.
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But in the case of minerals, he could assert that crystals accrete from outside rather than grow from inside.