May 27, 2014
Charles Lyell was a British lawyer and one the smartest geologist known in his time. He was known as the author of the Principles of Geology, which helped popularize the theories and concepts of uniformitarianism. The Principles of Geology was the first book written by Lyell and explained the changes of the earth’s surface. He used the research and information in the book as his proof to determine that the earth was over 6,000 years old. The central argument in his book was “the present is the key to the past”, this meant that to find out what happened in the past you had to look at what was happening now. It explained that changes which happened in the past, were happening in the present, and will happen in the future. Lyell’s book was later published into three volumes from 1830-1833. After the publication, it gave him credentials as an important geological theorist. His book later influenced a young Charles Darwin. Lyell’s influential book led Darwin to follow his principles and they later became friends. Darwin began to explore the changes that happen on the earth and develop his theories of evolution, though Charles did not completely endorse Darwin’s theory of evolution. Lyell was a devout Christian and Darwin’s theory of evolution did not line up with his Lyell’s beliefs with natural selection. Darwin continued his research and beliefs of his own and became a scientist working with his theories of evolution.
Charles Lyell was born on November 14,1797 in Kinnordy, Scotland. Charles was the oldest of 10 children and his father, whose name was also Charles, was a lawyer and a botanist. Charles’ father was the one who first exposed him to nature.
The house where Charles was born is located in the Northwest of the central Lowlands in the valley of the Highland Boundary Fault, but he spent most of his childhood growing up at their second home at Barley Lodge in the New Forest, England. Years later, in 1816, Lyell entered Exeter College, Oxford after he became inspired when he went to William Buckland’s lectures. He graduated in 1819, BA second class in classics. After graduation, in 1820, he entered Lincoln’s Inn and took up law as a profession. In 1821, he received a M.A and traveled through rural England to observe geological phenomena. In 1821, Lyell continued his studies and attended Robert Jameson’s lectures in Edinburgh and visited Gideon Mantell at Lewes, in Sussex. In 1823, he was voted joint secretary of the Geological Society. It was during this time that Lyell’s eyesight began to deteriorate and he took on geology as a full-time profession.
Lyell’s began writing and his first paper was on “a recent formation of freshwater limestone in Forfarshire”. He presented this paper in 1822 and by 1827, he abandoned the law profession and set out for a geological career that would later earn him the general acceptance of uniformitarianism, which was an old idea suggested to him by James...