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PAUL D STEWART / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY PAUL D STEWART / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
James Hutton (1726 â 1797), a Scottish geologist, physician, chemical manufacturer; and naturalist. Referred to as the father of modern geology, he originated the theory of uniformitarianism. A fundamental principle of geology, it explains that features of the Earth's crust were perpetually being formed and eroded by natural processes over geologic time. Hence modern processes can act as a guide to ancient ones. Those ideas were publicised by John Playfair and developed by Charles Lyell in the 19th century. They also influenced Darwin's understanding of the eternal process of natural selection. Hutton's carefully observational and deductive work established geology as a proper science. Illustration by John Kay circa 1790.
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