Addresses of All Authors

Steven A. Austin, Cedarville University, 251 N. Main St., Cedarville, OH 45314.

Roger W. Sanders, Core Academy of Science, P.O. Box 1076, Dayton, TN 37321.

Author's Biography

Dr. Steven A. Austin earned a Ph.D. in geology from Pennsylvania State University (1979). He serves as adjunct professor of geology at Cedarville University (Cedarville, Ohio) and as a senior research geologist at Logos Research Associates (Costa Mesa, California). He is married to Kelly M. Austin, M.D., who serves as Professor of Pediatric Surgery at University of Pittsburgh.

Roger W. Sanders earned a Ph.D. in systematic botany at the University of Texas at Austin in 1979. After working for nearly 30 years as a theistic evolutionist with public and private research organizations, he adopted the young-age position and later taught seven years at Bryan College. In 2013 he helped found Core Academy of Science in which he served as faculty until retiring recently. He and his wife of 38 years have two grown children and one grandchild.


For three hundred years geologists and paleobotanists have been attempting to describe the process that deposited plant material that formed Carboniferous coal beds. Autochthonous and allochthonous explanations in the early Nineteenth Century showed how scientific methodology becomes involved in coal interpretation. Autochthonous modelers used the paleobotany-strata-petrology-environment method to argue that coal is a terrestrial swamp deposit. Allochthonous modelers used the petrology-strata-paleobotany-environment method to describe coal as a subaqueous deposit. The two methodologies are best displayed at the end of the Nineteenth Century in the consensus autochthonists versus the French School allochthonists. Three depositional models have been offered for the origin of coal: (1) peat swamp model, (2) drift model, and (3) floating mat model. Many paleobotany questions about lycopods and tree ferns had not been solved at the end of the Nineteenth Century, but the “floating mat model” offered a very robust path to direct research. Unfortunately, at the beginning of the Twentieth Century when the uniformitarian paradigm prevailed, the floating mat model was intentionally suppressed. Now new data from coal petrology indicate that Carboniferous coal is detrital having accumulated underwater, not as a terrestrial swamp deposit. New data and methodology from paleobotany (Sanders and Austin, 2018) show lycopsids and tree ferns were capable of forming living floating mats able to support the trunks. Paleobotany of coal plants should now be best understood as supporting a floating raft that deposited the detritus that now forms Carboniferous coal beds. We present here for the first time a three-hundred-year historical survey of the notion that coal accumulated from floating vegetation mats.


Earth Sciences | Paleobiology


Floating mat model, origin of coal, Carboniferous paleobotany, paleoecology, tree lycopsids, Lepidophloios, Stigmaria, tree fern, Psaronius, sedimentary process, detrital deposition, coal petrology, stratigraphy, depositional environment




DigitalCommons@Cedarville provides a publication platform for fully open access journals, which means that all articles are available on the Internet to all users immediately upon publication. However, the opinions and sentiments expressed by the authors of articles published in our journals do not necessarily indicate the endorsement or reflect the views of DigitalCommons@Cedarville, the Centennial Library, or Cedarville University and its employees. The authors are solely responsible for the content of their work. Please address questions to dc@cedarville.edu.

Included in

Paleobiology Commons



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.