Geohistory in Retrospect (1833)

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:
Geohistory in Retrospect (1833)

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This chapter presents Charles Lyell's detailed reconstruction of geohistory, focused on the Tertiary era. His concept of the ever-changing composition of the Tertiary molluskan fauna, combined with his claim that the stratigraphical record was an intrinsically imperfect record of geohistory, led him to argue that the successive periods of the Tertiary era (Eocene, Miocene, Older Pliocene, and Newer Pliocene) were no more than temporally scattered samples of geohistory, snatched from the ravages of time and preserved by chance in spatially scattered “basins.” For each period, reviewed retrospectively from the present back into the deeper past, Lyell reconstructed in turn the same array of physical processes and environments, demonstrating that the earth had been essentially in a steady state throughout the Tertiary era.

Keywords: Charles Lyell; geohistory; Tertiary era

Chapter.  5998 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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