Charles Lyell was born in 1797 and died in 1875. Born in Scotland
where he lived until the age of 2, Lyell was the oldest of 10
children and spent an extraordinary amount of time with his father
who educated him in the sciences.
He was a dedicated learner from early on. He spent time in and
out of private schools but much preferred learning from his father
than he did spending his time in a formal school setting. He did
have a formal education at Oxford beginning at the age of 19 where
he studied geology and mathematics.
He went on to receive a Master's Degree and started practicing
law shortly thereafter. He found law to not be his foray because
even while in practice he was still drawn to the sciences. His
father was wealthy enough to allow him to dismiss his law practice
and travel and study geology.
Charles published his first scientific paper in 1825. His radical
theory was that the earth was actually millions of years old in
opposition to the belief at the time that it was a mere thousands
of years old according to biblical scholars.
Lyell believed that the Earth was formed through natural occurrence
and that super natural powers did not play a role in the formation
of the planet. His book Principles of Geology was based
on the evidence he found in Italy at Mt. Etna. The book was published
in 1833 after several revisions. This book changed the way scientists
were to view the Earth.
It contained a multitude of data and observations. The message
that was delivered via the book was that the Earth developed slowly
over time. The book's success among scholars prompted Lyell to
travel to North America to present his observations and theories.
His travels to the states were detailed in two more books Travels
in North America and A Second Visit to the United States
in North America. Both books detailed the findings and observations
of his travels around the US.
Charles Lyell's ideas at the time were very radical and surprisingly
were accepted by the geological community as very real possibilities.
Perhaps his theories were acceptable because they did not discuss
human life until much later on when he published The Geological
Evidence of the Antiquity of Man.
Oddly enough Lyell was a staunch Christian and did not accept
the theory of evolution. But he did greatly influence the writer
of the theory, Charles Darwin.
Darwin was greatly influenced by the writings of Lyell and largely
credited him with opening his eyes to several possible natural
theories. Captain Fitzroy, the ship captain of the HMS Beagle,
took Darwin on his travels helping him to form his theories.
Fitzroy and Lyell were friends and as it would happen Fitzroy
passed a copy of Lyell's original book the Principles of Geology
to Darwin while he was on the HMS Beagle.
Lyell is credited with influencing how geological theories have
been formed since the publication of his book and with helping
Darwin to form some of his theories.
Rumor Has It …
Charles Lyell, besides being a famous geologist, back in the
day was known as a formidable off-his-rocker rock 'n' roller who
played the air guitar with the likes of Beethoven, Brahms and