Book review: Fundamentals of Geophysics

This is the first time I will review a book on something I’m not familiar with at all. I’ve started now for more than two months a new job related to geophysics, and I had to catch up with my colleagues.
I’ve stopped studying geology ten years ago, so this is a review from someone who is learning geophysics and who wants to have a quick and global look on the different fields of geophysics.

Content and opinions

The book is divided in 5 chapters, each dedicated to a specific subject, with exercises and additional references for further readings.

The first chapter starts with the Earth in the solar system. Every other object in it has also a small overview of what we know about them. Then, the Earth system is introduced, with the continental drift and the associated basic inner model.

One of the goal of geophysics is to have a better model of the Earth. The first tool to do that is gravimetry and it is the subject of the second chapter. This induces new models not based on a sphere but on spheroids, with different influences (the Moon, the Sun, …) leadign to different modes. Finally, rheology allows the study of the continental drift at the margins.

With these materials, it is possible to study seismology, the third chapter. After a section dedicated to the elastic theory and another to the tools needed to record the seisms through displacements, different Earth inner models can be infered based on simulation and on the recording of the earthquakes. I specially enjoyed this chapter because my new field of application mainly uses sismology, and I learnt a lot about the different kind of waves that travels through the Earth.

To understand the Earth properties, different techniques must be used as radioactivity or radiometry for its age. The thermal properties are not well know, and only the mecanism behind are presented. Then the reader is taken to geoelectricity and electromagnetism, which can help creating another surface model (like sismology does) with resistivity measures or EM field measures.

The last chapter closes the loop: geomagnetism of rocks has a lot of variants and it allows to compute differently continental drift.


I saw on that this book is not well marked. Let’s consider the facts:

  1. This book is written by a renowned researcher in geophysics. This does not mean that he will be a great writter, but what he’s writting should be correct (safe for the typos which are claimed to have diminished in the second edition).
  2. It is aimed to beginners, not to specialists who want an update. The book is not very long for such a domain as geophysics IMHO. More advanced techniques and explanations are more likely to be found in other books (bigger or specialized ones). Do not seek the author’s latest research in this one.
  3. The scope is very large, and as such, it is not possible to explain everything. The bibliographies associated to each chapter seem to be dense enough for anyone to be able to dig deeper in a subdomain one finds interesting.

All things considered, I find this book sometimes hard to read because there are many informations in each chapter but very helpful to understand what geophysics is all about.

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