JAMES HUTTON FRSE ( /ˈhʌtən/ ; 3 June 1726 OS (14 June 1726 NS ) – 26 March 1797) was a Scottish geologist, physician , chemical manufacturer, naturalist , and experimental agriculturalist . He originated the theory of uniformitarianism —a fundamental principle of geology—which explains the features of the Earth\'s crust by means of natural processes over geologic time . Hutton's work established geology as a proper science, and thus he is often referred to as the " Father of Modern Geology".
Through observation and carefully reasoned geological arguments,
Hutton came to believe that the
* 1 Early life and career
* 1.1 Farming and geology
* 2 Later life and death
* 3 Theory of rock formations
* 3.1 Search for evidence
* 4 Publication * 5 Opposing theories * 6 Acceptance of geological theories
* 7 Other contributions
* 8 Works * 9 See also * 10 References * 11 Further reading * 12 External links
EARLY LIFE AND CAREER
Hutton was born in
He was educated at the High School of
After his degree Hutton returned to London, then in mid-1750 went
FARMING AND GEOLOGY
Hutton inherited from his father the Berwickshire farms of _Slighhouses_, a lowland farm which had been in the family since 1713, and the hill farm of _Nether Monynut_. :2–3 In the early 1750s he moved to _Slighhouses_ and set about making improvements, introducing farming practices from other parts of Britain and experimenting with plant and animal husbandry. :2–3 He recorded his ideas and innovations in an unpublished treatise on _The Elements of Agriculture_. :60
This developed his interest in meteorology and geology. In a 1753
letter he wrote that he had "become very fond of studying the surface
of the earth, and was looking with anxious curiosity into every pit or
ditch or bed of a river that fell in his way". Clearing and draining
his farm provided ample opportunities. Playfair describes Hutton as
having noticed that "a vast proportion of the present rocks are
composed of materials afforded by the destruction of bodies, animal,
vegetable and mineral, of more ancient formation". His theoretical
ideas began to come together in 1760. While his farming activities
continued, in 1764 he went on a geological tour of the north of
EDINBURGH AND CANAL BUILDING
In 1768 Hutton returned to
He had a house built in 1770 at St John's Hill, Edinburgh,
Salisbury Crags . This later became the Balfour family
home and, in 1840, the birthplace of the psychiatrist James
Crichton-Browne . Hutton was one of the most influential participants
Scottish Enlightenment , and fell in with numerous first-class
minds in the sciences including
John Playfair , philosopher David Hume
Adam Smith . Hutton held no position in Edinburgh
University and communicated his scientific findings through the Royal
Between 1767 and 1774 Hutton had close involvement with the
construction of the
Forth and Clyde canal , making full use of his
geological knowledge, both as a shareholder and as a member of the
committee of management, and attended meetings including extended site
inspections of all the works. At this time he is listed as living on
Bernard Street in
In 1783 he was a joint founder of the Royal Society of
LATER LIFE AND DEATH
From 1791 Hutton suffered extreme pain from stones in the bladder and
gave up field work to concentrate on finishing his books. A dangerous
(and painful) operation failed to resolve his illness. He died in
Hutton did not marry and had no legitimate children. Around 1747 he had a son by a Miss Edington, and though he gave his child James Smeaton Hutton financial assistance, he had little to do with the boy who went on to become a post-office clerk in London.
THEORY OF ROCK FORMATIONS
Hutton hit on a variety of ideas to explain the rock formations he
saw around him, but according to Playfair he "was in no haste to
publish his theory; for he was one of those who are much more
delighted with the contemplation of truth, than with the praise of
having discovered it". After some 25 years of work, his _Theory of
the Earth; or an Investigation of the Laws observable in the
Composition, Dissolution, and Restoration of Land upon the Globe_ was
read to meetings of the Royal Society of
The solid parts of the present land appear in general, to have been composed of the productions of the sea, and of other materials similar to those now found upon the shores. Hence we find reason to conclude:
1st, That the land on which we rest is not simple and original, but that it is a composition, and had been formed by the operation of second causes. 2nd, That before the present land was made, there had subsisted a world composed of sea and land, in which were tides and currents, with such operations at the bottom of the sea as now take place. And, Lastly, That while the present land was forming at the bottom of the ocean, the former land maintained plants and animals; at least the sea was then inhabited by animals, in a similar manner as it is at present. Hence we are led to conclude, that the greater part of our land, if not the whole had been produced by operations natural to this globe; but that in order to make this land a permanent body, resisting the operations of the waters, two things had been required; 1st, The consolidation of masses formed by collections of loose or incoherent materials; 2ndly, The elevation of those consolidated masses from the bottom of the sea, the place where they were collected, to the stations in which they now remain above the level of the ocean.
SEARCH FOR EVIDENCE
Hutton's Section on Edinburgh's Salisbury Crags
At Glen Tilt in the Cairngorm mountains in the Scottish Highlands in 1785, Hutton found granite penetrating metamorphic schists , in a way which indicated that the granite had been molten at the time. This showed to him that granite formed from cooling of molten rock, not precipitation out of water as others at the time believed, and that the granite must be younger than the schists.
He went on to find a similar penetration of volcanic rock through
sedimentary rock near the centre of
The existence of angular unconformities had been noted by Nicolas Steno and by French geologists including Horace-Bénédict de Saussure , who interpreted them in terms of Neptunism as "primary formations". Hutton wanted to examine such formations himself to see "particular marks" of the relationship between the rock layers. On the 1787 trip to the Isle of Arran he found his first example of Hutton\'s Unconformity to the north of Newton Point near Lochranza , but the limited view meant that the condition of the underlying strata was not clear enough for him, and he incorrectly thought that the strata were conformable at a depth below the exposed outcrop.
Later in 1787 Hutton noted what is now known as the Hutton or "Great" Unconformity at Inchbonny, Jedburgh , in layers of sedimentary rock . As shown in the illustrations to the right, layers of greywacke in the lower layers of the cliff face are tilted almost vertically, and above an intervening layer of conglomerate lie horizontal layers of Old Red Sandstone . He later wrote of how he "rejoiced at my good fortune in stumbling upon an object so interesting in the natural history of the earth, and which I had been long looking for in vain." That year, he found the same sequence in Teviotdale . An eroded outcrop at Siccar Point showing sloping red sandstone above vertical greywacke was sketched by Sir James Hall in 1788.
In the Spring of 1788 he set off with John Playfair to the Berwickshire coast and found more examples of this sequence in the valleys of the Tour and Pease Burns near Cockburnspath . They then took a boat trip from Dunglass Burn east along the coast with the geologist Sir James Hall of Dunglass . They found the sequence in the cliff below St. Helens, then just to the east at Siccar Point found what Hutton called "a beautiful picture of this junction washed bare by the sea". Playfair later commented about the experience, "the mind seemed to grow giddy by looking so far into the abyss of time". Continuing along the coast, they made more discoveries including sections of the vertical beds showing strong ripple marks which gave Hutton "great satisfaction" as a confirmation of his supposition that these beds had been laid horizontally in water. He also found conglomerate at altitudes that demonstrated the extent of erosion of the strata, and said of this that "we never should have dreamed of meeting with what we now perceived".
Hutton reasoned that there must have been innumerable cycles, each involving deposition on the seabed , uplift with tilting and erosion then undersea again for further layers to be deposited. On the belief that this was due to the same geological forces operating in the past as the very slow geological forces seen operating at the present day, the thicknesses of exposed rock layers implied to him enormous stretches of time.
Though Hutton circulated privately a printed version of the abstract
of his Theory (_Concerning the System of the Earth, its Duration, and
Stability_) which he read at a meeting of the Royal Society of
Following criticism, especially the arguments from Richard Kirwan who thought Hutton's ideas were atheistic and not logical, Hutton published a two volume version of his theory in 1795, consisting of the 1788 version of his theory (with slight additions) along with a lot of material drawn from shorter papers Hutton already had to hand on various subjects such as the origin of granite. It included a review of alternative theories, such as those of Thomas Burnet and Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon .
The whole was entitled _An Investigation of the Principles of
Knowledge and of the Progress of Reason, from Sense to
His new theories placed him into opposition with the then-popular
Neptunist theories of
Abraham Gottlob Werner , that all rocks had
precipitated out of a single enormous flood. Hutton proposed that the
interior of the
As well as combating the Neptunists, he also opened up the concept of
deep time for scientific purposes, in opposition to
Rather than accepting that the earth was no more than a few thousand
years old, he maintained that the
ACCEPTANCE OF GEOLOGICAL THEORIES
It has been claimed that the prose of _Principles of Knowledge_ was so obscure that it also impeded the acceptance of Hutton's geological theories. Restatements of his geological ideas (though not his thoughts on evolution) by John Playfair in 1802 and then Charles Lyell in the 1830s popularised the concept of an infinitely repeating cycle, though Lyell tended to dismiss Hutton's views as giving too much credence to catastrophic changes.
It was not merely the earth to which Hutton directed his attention. He had long studied the changes of the atmosphere . The same volume in which his _Theory of the Earth_ appeared contained also a _Theory of Rain_. He contended that the amount of moisture which the air can retain in solution increases with temperature, and, therefore, that on the mixture of two masses of air of different temperatures a portion of the moisture must be condensed and appear in visible form. He investigated the available data regarding rainfall and climate in different regions of the globe, and came to the conclusion that the rainfall is regulated by the humidity of the air on the one hand, and mixing of different air currents in the higher atmosphere on the other.
EARTH AS A LIVING ENTITY
The idea that the
Hutton also advocated uniformitarianism for living creatures – evolution , in a sense – and even suggested natural selection as a possible mechanism affecting them: "...if an organised body is not in the situation and circumstances best adapted to its sustenance and propagation, then, in conceiving an indefinite variety among the individuals of that species, we must be assured, that, on the one hand, those which depart most from the best adapted constitution, will be the most liable to perish, while, on the other hand, those organised bodies, which most approach to the best constitution for the present circumstances, will be best adapted to continue, in preserving themselves and multiplying the individuals of their race." – _Investigation of the Principles of Knowledge_, volume 2.
Hutton gave the example that where dogs survived through "swiftness of foot and quickness of sight... the most defective in respect of those necessary qualities, would be the most subject to perish, and that those who employed them in greatest perfection... would be those who would remain, to preserve themselves, and to continue the race". Equally, if an acute sense of smell became "more necessary to the sustenance of the animal... the same principle change the qualities of the animal, and.. produce a race of well scented hounds, instead of those who catch their prey by swiftness". The same "principle of variation" would influence "every species of plant, whether growing in a forest or a meadow". He came to his ideas as the result of experiments in plant and animal breeding , some of which he outlined in an unpublished manuscript, the _Elements of Agriculture_. He distinguished between heritable variation as the result of breeding, and non-heritable variations caused by environmental differences such as soil and climate.
Though he saw his "principle of variation" as explaining the
development of varieties, Hutton rejected the idea that evolution
might originate species as a "romantic fantasy", according to
palaeoclimatologist Paul Pearson. Influenced by deism , Hutton
thought the mechanism allowed species to form varieties better adapted
to particular conditions and provided evidence of benevolent design in
nature. Studies of
* 1785. _Abstract of a dissertation read in the Royal Society of
Edinburgh, upon the seventh of March, and fourth of April, MDCCLXXXV,
Concerning the System of the Earth, Its Duration, and Stability_.
Edinburgh. 30pp. at Oxford Digital Library.
* 1788._The theory of rain_. Transactions of the Royal Society of
Edinburgh, vol. 1, Part 2, pp. 41–86.
* 1788. _Theory of the Earth; or an investigation of the laws
observable in the composition, dissolution, and restoration of land
upon the Globe_. Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, vol.
1, Part 2, pp. 209–304. at
Internet Archive .
* 1792. _Dissertations on different subjects in natural philosophy._
* ^ Waterston, Charles D; Macmillan Shearer, A (2006). _Former
Fellows of the Royal Society of
* ^ Scottish Geology – Hutton\'s Section at Salisbury Crags
Scottish Geology – Hutton\'s Rock at
Salisbury Crags * ^ Cliff
Ford (1 September 2003). "Hutton\'s Section at Hoyrood Park".
Geos.ed.ac.uk. Retrieved 3 May 2011.
* ^ "Hutton\'s Unconformity".
Isle of Arran Heritage Museum. 18
July 2008. Archived from the original on 21 November 2008. Retrieved
20 October 2008.
* ^ "Hutton\'s
Unconformity - Lochranza, Isle of Arran, UK - Places
of Geologic Significance on Waymarking.com". Retrieved 20 October
* ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ Keith Montgomery (2003). "
Siccar Point and
Teaching the History of Geology" (PDF). University of Wisconsin.
Retrieved 26 March 2008.
* ^ Hugh Rance (1999). "Hutton\'s unconformities" (PDF).
_Historical Geology: The Present is the Key to the Past_. QCC Press.
Retrieved 20 October 2008.
* ^ "Jedburgh: Hutton\'s Unconformity". _
Jedburgh online_. Whilst
visiting Allar's Mill on the Jed Water, Hutton was delighted to see
horizontal bands of red sandstone lying 'unconformably' on top of near
vertical and folded bands of rock.
* ^ "Hutton\'s Journeys to Prove his Theory". James-hutton.org.uk.
Retrieved 3 May 2011.
* ^ "Hutton\'s Unconformity". Snh.org.uk. Retrieved 3 May 2011.
John Playfair (1999). "Hutton\'s Unconformity". _Transactions
of the Royal Society of
* Baxter, Stephen (2003). _Ages in Chaos: