too. People chopped up old furniture to put on the fire, wooden
fences disappeared over night, and trees seen standing one day
were no longer there the next. In the Edinburgh geology depart-
ment a large piece of coal exhibited in the main entrance hall,
displaying the beautiful fossil of a three hundred million year
old fern, mysteriously disappeared one day. No one complained;
they just wished they had thought of it first. So it is perhaps not
surprising that during this severe weather Holmes was taken
seriously ill with what he described to Nier as a 'breakdown'
and to Daly as a 'kind of climacteric.' There was nothing dis-
coverably wrong, but he lost all energy and, worst of all, all inter-
est in his work. After trying to stagger along for a few months
he had at last to give in and take a long holiday. The doctors
ordered a complete rest so he and Doris spent all summer in
Ireland, where he recuperated amongst the rocks of their
beloved Donegal. 'Since then I have been reasonably fit,
though strictly on condition of living at a slower rate than pre-
viously. I can think of lots of things to do, papers to write and
so on, but doing and writing them is another matter altogether.'
Needless to say, he does not appear to have slowed down in his
prodigious output of work but, having extracted as much as he
could from Nier's data, he turned his attentions elsewhere.
As far as Holmes was concerned he had found the age of the
Earth to be 3350 million years, and even if that date was not
exact, he had provided the model that would allow others to get
it right once better data were available. Furthermore, he had
fulfilled his life-long dream of developing a geological time
scale that could be applied to common rocks and, even more
significantly perhaps, achieved what had once seemed impossi-
ble - reconciliation of the hour-glass methods with radiometric
dates. All that remained now was to improve the techniques and
refine the ages. That could be left to a younger generation.
Arthur Holmes had worked his wild miracles quietly and per-
sistently over many years of trial and error. Finally he had shown
the world how to tell geological time.