|Nicolas Steno: Sort of a geological Catholicgauze. As Bishop he sold his bishop's cross and ring and donated the money to the poor.|
Nicolas Steno was a Danish Renaissance man who believed in proving to himself long held beliefs and disgrading things shown to be false. This strong drive for the truth led him to become the founder of geology and laid the ground work for the development of archaeology and paleontology. His first major test was analyzing his Lutheran beliefs. When Steno reasoned that Catholicism was more grounded in traditional Christianity than Lutheranism Steno converted. He would study and follow his new faith all the way to becoming a bishop.
But geographers and other earth scientists better know Steno for his geological work. Early on Nicolas Steno realized that glossopetrae – literally 'tongue stones' were not fallen moon rocks or weird natural growths but instead fossils of shark teeth. Later on Steno discovered rock strata were actually layers of rock which formed on top of each other over time. He stated the deeper one digs into the earth the older the material. Before Steno this was too much a leap for scientists to realize due to the general scientific disinterest in anything below the Earth's surface unless it was for alchemy. His discovery also ended the belief in an unchanging creationist Earth. Since then all science has agreed the Earth is dynamic.
Steno's birthday is January 11th and his popularity has spiked today due to Google celebrating his life with a "Google Doodle" showing strata.