Revolutions in the Earth(2003)
James Hutton and the True Age of the Earth
A non fiction book by Stephen Baxter
James Hutton is hailed as the founder of modern geology. A product of the 18th century Scottish Enlightenment, he studied in Paris and Leiden, made money manufacturing sal ammoniac and was interested in steam engines, canals and agriculture; but unlike many of his contemporaries he never held a university position. His Theory of the Earth (1795) showed that earth processes were in balance - a steady state created between the forces of erosion that constantly wear earth away and an offsetting mechanism of uplift. For Hutton the processes that have changed the earth over eons were nothing more or less than the process we can observe today. It is a view he captured in one of science's most elegant sentences: 'No vestige of a beginning, no prospect of an end'.Without Hutton's extraordinary revelation, the nineteenth-century evolutionists would have had no context in which to frame their evolutionary mechanisms. They would have had to believe that dinosaur bones were the relics of creatures drowned by Noah's Flood just a few thousand years ago. This is the story of how a farmer's son learned to peer into the deepest abysses of time, and his intellectual struggle with deeply religious rivals. It is a drama of personality, landscape and ideas - and of a man whose vision, rooted in antiquity yet tinged with modern philosophies, was ahead of his own time.
June 2003 : UK Hardback
February 2004 : UK Paperback