The Harvard Classics Volume 38 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 478 pages of information about The Harvard Classics Volume 38.

Lyell’s scientific work received wide recognition:  he was more than once President of the Geological Society, in 1864 was President of the British Association, was knighted in 1848, and made a baronet in 1864.  He possessed a broad general culture, and his home was a noted center of the intellectual life of London.  He twice came to the United States to lecture, and created great interest.  On his death, on February 22, 1875, he was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Persistent as were Lyell’s efforts for the establishment of his main theory, he remained remarkably open-minded; and when the evolutionary hypothesis was put forward he became a warm supporter of it.  Darwin in his autobiography thus sums up Lyell’s achievement:  “The science of geology is enormously indebted to Lyell—­more so, as I believe, than to any other man who ewer lived.”

THE PROGRESS OF GEOLOGY

[Footnote:  The text of the two following papers is taken from the 11th edition of Lyell’s Principles of Geology, the last edition revised by the author.]

I

PREPOSSESSIONS in regard to the duration of past time—­prejudices
arising from our peculiar position as inhabitants of the land—­
others occasioned by our not seeing subterranean changes now in
progress—­all these causes Combine to make the former course of
nature appear different from the present—­objections to the
doctrine that causes similar in kind and energy to those now
acting, have produced the former changes of the earth’s surface
considered

If we reflect on the history of the progress of geology we perceive that there have been great fluctuations of opinion respecting the nature of the causes to which all former changes of the earth’s surface are referable.  The first observers conceived the monuments which the geologist endeavours to decipher to relate to an original state of the earth, or to a period when there were causes in activity, distinct, in a kind and degree, from those now constituting the economy of nature.  These views were gradually modified, and some of them entirely abandoned, in proportion as observations were multiplied, and the signs of former mutations were skilfully interpreted.  Many appearances, which had for a long time been regarded as indicating mysterious and extraordinary agency, were finally recognised as the necessary result of

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