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.

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  1. We all recognise the great Raeburn portrait in cameo on this dustjacket. Now it will be wonderful to investigate this luminous figure's own legacies. I compliment and congratulate you on this venture and I apologise for a long truancy, discovering it only now. I am very heartened by the thought that it will bring you pleasure in facets of your mind which have long simmered elsewhere in your work, to everyone's admiration and hope for this concession; and if minor experience can give me any guide in expectation, I believe you, too, will flourish in other fields for cultivating this one. À votre santé.

  2. Laurent, many thanks for your wonderful comment. You are marvelously kind. I hope you are doing well. . . . I hope to read this book soon; I have been fascinated by Hutton for some time.