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Lyell's 'Principles of Geology' (1833)

Lyell's 'Principles of Geology' (1833)

C028/9694

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Credit

PAUL D STEWART / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY PAUL D STEWART / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption

Lyell's 'Principles of Geology' (1833). Frontispiece and title page of volume 2 (1833) of the second edition of 'Principles of Geology' by British geologist Charles Lyell (1797-1875). At top left is a piece of Galapagos lava. This influential book (first published in three volumes from 1830 to 1833) introduced the tenet of geological gradualism (following on from Hutton). The central argument made by Lyell was that 'the present is the key to the past', that the geological processes now in operation can and should be used to interpret the past. Charles Darwin (who later became a friend) cited it as an inspiration for his long view of natural selection as an ongoing gradualistic process of change. Darwin had the first book on his Beagle voyage, and received the second in South America. He must have been struck by how forcibly Lyell was against organic evolution of animals in this volume, citing 'centres of creation' instead. The care Darwin took in presenting his case owes much to the difficult reception it might get from teachers and friends whose mind was already made up.

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