Charles Lyell (1797-1875)

Lyell wrote one of the earliest and most influential geology texts.  Darwin took a copy with him on the Beagle.

Lyell popularized the concept of uniformitarianism.  While there have been many interpretations about what uniformitarianism, it contrasts most strongly with an earlier view of geology that earth's history that the major features were major catastrophes that we cannot readily understand.

Lyell Principles frontispiece, 1857 2d American edition.

This shows crosscutting, unconformities, and the different types of rocks.


Uniformitarianism generally means:

Uniformitariansim is sometimes abbreviated as "the present is the key to the past".  We observe processes operating on earth at present, and try to use them to interpret the record we see in the rocks.

Last revision 12/17/2014