Charles Lyell

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Lyell, Charles


Born Nov. 14, 1797, in Kinnordy, Scotland; died Feb. 22, 1875, in London. British naturalist.

Lyell studied ancient languages, law, and geology at Oxford. In 1827 he abandoned the practice of law and devoted himself entirely to geology. His chief work, The Principles of Geology, came out in 1830–33 (in three volumes, republished many times) and was a milestone in the history of natural science. In this work Lyell countered the then prevailing theory of catastrophism with a theory of slow, continuous change in the earth’s surface owing to the action of constant geological factors that are still operating today (atmospheric precipitation, flowing water, volcanic eruptions, and the like). Although Lyell’s evolutionary theory (actualism) was a major step toward a materialist understanding of nature, it had weaknesses, namely, that Lyell considered the forces acting on the earth to be constant in quality and intensity and did not see changes in them with time and the development of the earth associated with these changes (uniformitarianism).

After a study of Tertiary strata in Italy, Lyell proposed dividing the Tertiary system into three groups (Eocene, Miocene, and Pliocene) on the basis of paleontological evidence. In his book The Geological Evidence of the Antiquity of Man (1863; Russian translation, 1864), Lyell presented arguments in defense of C. Darwin’s evolutionary theory of the origin of species. During visits to the Canary Islands and Sicily he collected data on the age of lavas and the formation of volcanic cones. A study of Etna enabled Lyell to refute the theory of craters of elevation advanced by the German geologist L. Buch and the Frenchman L. Elie de Beaumont. Lyell offered a hypothesis on the nature of metamorphic processes and suggested a division of rocks into sedimentary, volcanic, plutonic, and metamorphic.

Lyell was a member of the Linnean and Geological societies (1819), becoming president of the latter in 1835, and a fellow of the Royal Society (1826). A medal named in honor of Lyell is awarded each year by the Geological Society of London for outstanding work in geology.


In Russian translation:
Osnovnye nachala geologii ili noveishie izmeneniia Zemli i ee obitatelei, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1866.
Rukovodstvo k geologii, ili drevnie izmeneniia Zemli i ee obitatelei po svidetel’stvu geologicheskikh pamiatnikov, vols. 1–2. St. Petersburg, 1866–78.


Engels, F. “Dialektika prirody.” In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed. vol. 20.
Ravikovich, A. I. Razvitie osnovnykh teoreticheskikh napravlenii ν geologii XIX veka. Moscow, 1969. (Trudy Geologicheskogo in-ta AN SSSR, no. 189.)
Bailey, E. Charles Lyell. London, 1962. (British Men of Science.)
References in classic literature ?
Last year he sent to me a memoir on this subject, with a request that I would forward it to Sir Charles Lyell, who sent it to the Linnean Society, and it is published in the third volume of the Journal of that Society.
Contract award: Design and Build of the Sir Charles Lyell Centre.
11) Charles Lyell to Roderick Murchison, January 15, 1829, Life Letters and Journals of Sir Charles Lyell, Bart, ed.
1858: Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and natural selection was made public at a meeting of the Linnean Society in London by Sir Charles Lyell and Sir Joseph Hooker.
A grant from the Royal Society was forthcoming, a committee of excavations set up and Prestwich along with others, including Sir Charles Lyell, were appointed (Woodward 1907: 209).
Mr Davies ignores the fact that some of the leading scientists of the age, especially Sir Charles Lyell and Sir Joseph Hooker, knew of Darwin's theory many years before Wallace ever left these shores for the Far East and had urged him to publish before someone else came up with the same theory of natural selection to explain evolution - which is of course what Wallace did.
July 1842 saw the first visit to Joggins by Sir Charles Lyell, a side excursion from his first trip to the United States and the Province of Canada in 1841-1842.
Contract Award Notice: The Sir Charles Lyell Centre is a joint venture between Heriot-Watt University (HWU) and the British Geological Survey (BGS) to design and build purpose built accommodation which will comprise of office areas, research laboratory areas, aquarium and associated working areas and laboratories, shared central core area containing welfare, ancillary and meeting areas and external works and services.
Evans also gave a verbal account of the flints at the Royal Society meeting, to an audience which included Sir Charles Lyell, Roderick Murchison, T.
In a letter to his friend and mentor, Sir Charles Lyell, dated 13 August 1868, he gave a clear summary of his philosophy, writing that fossil trees were most use fully analyzed "as they stand in the cliffs of Sydney and Joggins" rather than "on the shelves of the British Museum" (Dawson 1868b).
The British Geological Survey (BGS) and Heriot-Watt University are joining forces to create the Sir Charles Lyell Centre on the universitys Edinburgh campus.