Monday, June 3, 2013
June 3 - James Hutton
Scottish geologist and naturalist James Hutton was born on June 3, 1726, in Edinburgh, where he studied medicine and took an interest in mathematics and chemistry. He inherited family farmland in the 1750s and introduced modern farming practices, which spurred his interest in geology. He wrote that he had "become very fond of studying the surface of the earth,” and by studying Devonian Old Red Sandstone on Scotland’s coast, he concluded that sedimentary rocks originated not from one Biblical flood but many floods, and that igneous rocks were separate from sedimentary deposits. He believed the Earth is shaped by cyclic deposits of silt, formed into rock, followed by upheaval, over and over. In his Theory of the Earth (proposed in 1785) he shaped our understanding of geologic time by stating that this process has "no vestige of a beginning, no prospect of an end." A major figure in the Scottish Enlightenment along with Adam Smith and others, he was the first scientist to believe the Earth is a living superorganism.