Completing Lyell's Principles (1832–33)

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:
Completing Lyell's Principles (1832–33)

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This chapter describes the third volume of Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology. Lyell's lectures at King's College gave him a valuable opportunity to reach an influential audience drawn from the scientific and social elites in the capital. He used the occasion to outline some of the contents of the still-unpublished final volume of his Principles, making geology palatable in the College's Anglican environment by stressing its contribution to traditional natural theology. The third volume of the Principles showed that a full appreciation of the power of observable actual causes would demonstrate their total adequacy—at no more than their present intensity—to account for everything in the deep past. Lyell criticized the catastrophists more trenchantly than ever. The Tertiary era would be the test-bed for his concept of geohistory as essentially uniform and steady-state. Now, with all his geohistorical procedures set out in full, Lyell could bring his argument to its climax with a detailed reconstruction of geohistory, focused on the Tertiary era.

Keywords: Charles Lyell; Principles of Geology; Lyell's lectures; King's College; actual causes; geohistory

Chapter.  7516 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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