James Hutton

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Related to James Hutton: Charles Lyell, Edward Suess

Hutton, James,

1726–97, Scottish geologist, chemist, and naturalist. He was initially attracted to chemistry; he entered the legal profession at the Univ. of Edinburgh; turned to medicine, as it closely resembled chemistry; and then became a farmer to allow him to study rocks and be able to pursue his interests in geology. He formulated controversial theories of the origin of the earth and of atmospheric changes (see uniformitarianismuniformitarianism,
in geology, doctrine holding that changes in the earth's surface that occurred in past geologic time are referable to the same causes as changes now being produced upon the earth's surface.
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) that paved the way to modern geological science. After 1768, he moved to Edinburgh to discuss his ideas with other scholars including the physician and mathematician John Playfair, and chemist Joseph Black. Hutton started a controversy by standing against the popular Neptunists (rocks developed in a great flood) and the Plutonists (all rocks are of igneous origin) schools, proposing the theory of uniformity of causes, concluding that the earth's history can be explained by observing the geological forces now at work, because these forces are identical to the ones that operated in the past. By studying the Devonian Old Red Sandstone along the Scotland coast, he discovered that sedimentary rocks originated from, not a single flood, but a series of successive floods; noted that the intrusion of igneous rocks were distinct from sedimentary deposits; recorded the gradual actions of geomorphic processes; and discussed the lengths of geologic time. His ideas influenced Charles LyellLyell, Sir Charles
, 1797–1875, British geologist. After studying and briefly practicing law, he spent most of his life in travel and in popularizing scientific ideas.
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's Principles of Geology, which in turn influenced Charles Darwin's theories of adaptive evolution. Hutton's great work was The Theory of the Earth (2 vol., 1795; MS fragment for Vol. III ed. by Archibald Geikie, 1899); it was simplified by John Playfair as Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory of the Earth (1802).


See study by E. B. Bailey (1967).

References in periodicals archive ?
Professor Iain Gordon, the chief executive of The James Hutton Institute said: "This achievement is an exciting day for us and the result of many years of hard work by our team in Dundee.
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US army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel James Hutton said the detained suspects were believed to belong to a cell responsible for killing two US soldiers with roadside bombs.
Although widely regarded as the father of modern geology, James Hutton is hardly a household name.
James Hutton has been named loan officer for the bank.
The geological theme, informing the centre's exhibition and the building's design, celebrates the memory of James Hutton, an eighteenth-century pioneer of modern geology who lived and worked on the same spot.
The Soil Forensics Group based at the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen and Dundee used an electron beam to help identify the "fingerprint" of soil and vegetation found on the soles of Helen Scott's bare feet.
The new raspberry, named Glen Dee, has been bred by Mylnefield Research Services, at the James Hutton Institute, with support from the UK Raspberry Breeding Consortium and the Scottish Government.
Derek Stewart, PhD, is the leader of the Enhancing Crop Productivity and Utilisation Theme at The James Hutton Institute (JHI) in Scotland, UK.
Scientists from Ibers alongside those at the Rothamsted Research site in north Devon, the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen, Lancaster University and the University of Nottingham, managed to cross a hybridised species of grass called perennial ryegrass, which has a high growth rate, with a species called meadow fescue, known for its well-developed root systems and efficient water capture.
James Hutton is usually given credit for creating the modern science of geology, and for writing the first systematic book on the history of the earth.