Chapter

“The Huttonian theory rediviva” (1830–31)

in Worlds Before Adam

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print July 2008 | ISBN: 9780226731285
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226731308 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226731308.003.0023
“The Huttonian theory rediviva” (1830–31)

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This chapter summarizes the next phase of Charles Lyell's exposition of his geotheory and describes how the first volume of Principles of Geology was received by fellow geologists and other savants. Among the earliest reactions to Lyell's volume, George Poulett Scrope's is particularly revealing, because in many ways he was closest to Lyell in his emphasis on the explanatory power of actual causes and in his ardent desire to free their science from the ignorant “scriptural geology” that hampered its wider acceptance in Britain. But while Scrope welcomed Lyell's treatment of actual causes, he also criticized his friend's rejection of the cumulative evidence that the earth had not been in a Huttonian steady state throughout geohistory, but on the contrary had undergone broadly directional change from a probably hot origin. Henry Thomas de la Beche, who was about to summarize the same almost consensual view of geohistory in his own book on geology, was equally critical of Lyell's geotheoretical ambitions.

Keywords: Charles Lyell; Principles of Geology; geotheory; geohistory; George Poulett Scrope; de la Beche

Chapter.  7726 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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