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Tuesday, April 23, 2019
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Lyell, Sir Charles (1797-1875):

Short Biography – Lyell, Sir Charles (1797-1875):

Lyell was a Scottish geologist. He was born at Kinnordy, Fortfarshire. He graduated from Oxford (Exeter College). While he studied law and was called to the bar, Lyell turned from the law and spent his life in geological investigations. His great work, Principles of Geology; or Modern Changes of the Earth and Its Inhabitants was first published in January, 1830. Chambers writes that Lyell’s Principles of Geology “may be ranked next after Darwin’s The Origin of Species among the books which exercised the most powerful influence on scientific thought in the 19th century.” (In spite preeminent scientific thinking, Lyell went to his grave a hold out against the notion of human evolution.) By way of commentary and in connection on this short note on Lyell: In the early 19th century there broke out a geological dispute between the Neptunians and Vulcanists. The larger school, the Neptunians were of the view that granite had crystallized from a universal ocean that covered the earth in its original chaotic state; on the other hand the Vulcanists were convinced that granite was of volcanic origin. This became a very bitter conflict between the rival sects. How to resolve it? Not by vicious attacks on one and other. What a new generation of earth historians determined was that, instead of engaging in fruitless argument over ‘fanciful’ theories, geology could have no proper business but to go out and find facts – specimens, for example, and fossils and geological formations. Such an approach, as was carried out by Lyell, resulted in a new view, an “uniformitarian view,” according to which the geographical record is an accumulation of ordinary and observable natural processes acting over a very long time.


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