Sir Charles Lyell

Sir Charles Lyell

Sir Charles Lyell

Birth : (1797-11-14)14 November 1797 Kinnordy House, Angus, Scotland

Death : 22 February 1875(1875-02-22)(aged 77) Harley Street, London, England

Personal Information

Name Sir Charles Lyell
Birth (1797-11-14)14 November 1797 Kinnordy House, Angus, Scotland
Birth Place Kinnordy House, Angus, Scotland
Death (1875-02-22)(aged 77) Harley Street, London, England
Died At Harley Street, London, England
Nationality United Kingdom
Alma Mater Exeter College, Oxford
Fields Geology
Institution King's College London)
Famous Research Uniformitarianism

Word Cloud

Events Occured in Scienctist Life


Sir Charles Lyell, 1st Baronet, (14 November 1797 – 22 February 1875) was a Scottish geologist who demonstrated the power of known natural causes in explaining Earth's history.


Lyell helped to arrange the simultaneous publication in 1858 of papers by Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace on natural selection, despite his personal religious qualms about the theory.


Biography Lyell was born into a wealthy family, on 14 November 1797, at the family's estate house, Kinnordy House, near Kirriemuir in Forfarshire.


Lyell entered Exeter College, Oxford, in 1816, and attended William Buckland's geological lectures.


After graduation he took up law as a profession, entering Lincoln's Inn in 1820.


In 1821 he attended Robert Jameson's lectures in Edinburgh, and visited Gideon Mantell at Lewes, in Sussex.


In 1823 he was elected joint secretary of the Geological Society.


His first paper, "On a recent formation of freshwater limestone in Forfarshire", was presented in 1822.


By 1827, he had abandoned law and embarked on a geological career that would result in fame and the general acceptance of uniformitarianism, a working out of the ideas proposed by James Hutton a few decades earlier.


In 1832, Lyell married Mary Horner in Bonn, daughter of Leonard Horner (1785–1864), also associated with the Geological Society of London.


During the 1840s, Lyell travelled to the United States and Canada, and wrote two popular travel-and-geology books: Travels in North America (1845) and A Second Visit to the United States (1849).


In 1866, he was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.


Lyell's wife died in 1873, and two years later (in 1875)


Lyell was knighted (Kt) in 1848, and later, in 1864, made a baronet (Bt), which is an hereditary honour.


He was awarded the Copley Medal of the Royal Society in 1858 and the Wollaston Medal of the Geological Society in 1866.


He came from a prosperous family, worked briefly as a lawyer in the 1820s, and held the post of Professor of Geology at King's College London in the 1830s.


From 1830 onward his books provided both income and fame.


The central argument in Principles was that the present is the key to the past – a concept of the Scottish Enlightenment which David Hume had stated as "all inferences from experience suppose ... that the future will resemble the past", and James Hutton had described when he wrote in 1788 that "from what has actually been, we have data for concluding with regard to that which is to happen thereafter.


On the return of the Beagle (October 1836) Lyell invited Darwin to dinner and from then on they were close friends.


Although Darwin discussed evolutionary ideas with him from 1842, Lyell continued to reject evolution in each of the first nine editions of the Principles.


He encouraged Darwin to publish, and following the 1859 publication of On the Origin of Species, Lyell finally offered a tepid endorsement of evolution in the tenth edition of Principles.


The systematic, factual description of geological formations of different ages contained in Principles grew so unwieldy, however, that Lyell split it off as the Elements in 1838.


First published in 1863, it went through three editions that year, with a fourth and final edition appearing in 1873.


From 1830 to 1833 his multi-volume Principles of Geology was published.


The two terms, uniformitarianism and catastrophism, were both coined by William Whewell; in 1866 R. Grove suggested the simpler term continuity for Lyell's view, but the old terms persisted.


In various revised editions (12 in all, through 1872), Principles of Geology was the most influential geological work in the middle of the 19th century, and did much to put geology on a modern footing.


Modern surveys, like the British Geological Survey (founded in 1835), and the US Geological Survey (founded in 1879), map and exhibit the natural resources within the country.


From May 1828, until February 1829, he travelled with Roderick Impey Murchison (1792–1871) to the south of France (Auvergne volcanic district) and to Italy.


Based on this the third volume of his Principles of Geology, published in 1833, proposed dividing the Tertiary period into four parts, which he named the Eocene, Miocene, Pliocene, and Recent.


In 1839, Lyell termed the Pleistocene epoch, distinguishing a more recent fossil layer from the Pliocene.


The Recent epoch – renamed the Holocene by French paleontologist Paul Gervais in 1867 – included all deposits from the era subject to human observation.


Around 1826, when he was on circuit, he read Lamarck's Zoological Philosophy and on 2 March 1827 wrote to Mantell, expressing admiration, but cautioning that he read it "rather as I hear an advocate on the wrong side, to know what can be made of the case in good hands".


He struggled with the implications for human dignity, and later in 1827 wrote private notes on Lamarck's ideas.


The leading man of science Sir John Herschel wrote from Cape Town on 20 February 1836, thanking Lyell for sending a copy of Principles and praising the book as opening a way for bold speculation on "that mystery of mysteries, the replacement of extinct species by others" – by analogy with other intermediate causes, "the origination of fresh species, could it ever come under our cognizance, would be found to be a natural in contradistinction to a miraculous process".


By the time Darwin returned from the Beagle survey expedition in 1836, he had begun to doubt Lyell's ideas about the permanence of species.


Lyell and Hooker were instrumental in arranging the peaceful co-publication of the theory of natural selection by Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace in 1858: each had arrived at the theory independently.


Although Lyell rejected evolution at the time of writing the Principles, after the Darwin–Wallace papers and the Origin Lyell wrote in one of his notebooks on 3 May 1860:


The Antiquity of Man (published in early February 1863, just before Huxley's Man's place in nature) drew these comments from Darwin to Huxley: "I am fearfully disappointed at Lyell's excessive caution" and "The book is a mere 'digest'".