Chapter

Lyell's geotheory dismembered (1834–40)

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/9780226731308.003.0033
Lyell's geotheory dismembered (1834–40)

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This chapter describes how Charles Lyell—the lonely proponent of an ambitious geotheory centered on a cyclic or steady-state geohistory—responded to the cumulative evidence for directionality. Lyell's fellow geologists were of course more knowledgeable than the general public, and therefore more discriminating about his claims. They welcomed some components of his work but rejected others, praising his explanatory use of actual causes, but doubting if they were wholly adequate. Geologists were even more critical of Lyell's continuing claim that the pattern of geohistory had been that of a Huttonian cyclicity or steady state, a claim that Lyell nonetheless repeated in his new Elements of Geology.

Keywords: Charles Lyell; geotheory; directional geohistory; actual causes

Chapter.  7875 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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