Promoting Lyell's Principles (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:
Promoting Lyell's Principles (1830–31)

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This chapter continues the discussion of early criticisms of the first volume of Charles Lyell's Principles, taking it beyond England. Critics continued to praise Lyell for his analysis of actual causes while criticizing him for claiming that the application of such known processes to the deep past necessarily led to a Huttonian steady-state geohistory. They claimed that Lyell, in arguing for the “uniformity” of nature, had confused the highly complex processes of geological agency with the basic physico-chemical “laws of nature” on which they were founded. The latter, they agreed, must indeed be assumed to be stable from and to eternity; but the former might have varied greatly in power and intensity in the course of geohistory, and only a close empirical study of the surviving traces of their action could or should settle the question one way or the other. All of Lyell's critics agreed in rejecting the claims of “scriptural geology,” and often did so with great vehemence.

Keywords: Charles Lyell; Principles of Geology; geotheory; geohistory; Lyell's critics

Chapter.  8193 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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