The Uniformity of Life (1831–32)

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:
The Uniformity of Life (1831–32)

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This chapter describes the second volume of Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology and its reception. Lamarckian transformism was forcefully rejected in this volume. Instead Lyell argued that organic species were real natural units, stable in form and habit throughout their span of existence; and that both their “births” or points of origin and their “deaths” or points of extinction were events which were scattered piecemeal across space and time, rather than being concentrated in sudden episodes of mass origins and mass extinctions. But his adoption of Giovanni Battista Brocchi's analogy between species and individuals was modified, in that he now attributed extinctions not to anything analogous to old age but to purely environmental factors consequent upon the ceaseless changes in climate and physical geography which he had outlined in his first volume. Roderick Impey Murchison was the first to welcome Lyell's second volume in public, but William Whewell's was a more penetrating review.

Keywords: Charles Lyell; Principles of Geology; organic species; extinction; Roderick Impey Murchison; William Whewell

Chapter.  8012 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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