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.
On the afternoon of July 1, 1858, Charles Lyell (1797-1875) and Joseph Dalton Hooker (1817-1911), two friends of a forty-nine-old man who had lost faith in the Bible, (1) presented two papers at a meeting of the Linnean Society of London.
Charles Lyell and the evidences of the antiquity of man, in D.
In such a course, fledgling geology majors normally learn the names of such geological luminaries as Georges Cuvier, William Buckland, Adam Sedgwick, Roderick Murchison, Charles Lyell, and Louis Agassiz.
One scientist, geologist Charles Lyell, was an early mentor to Darwin.
Craig Dworkin's Alkali feels like the bastard child of Gerard Manley Hopkins and the Victorian geologist Charles Lyell, Darwin's friend, by way of Utah's Great Basin.
Contract award: Design and Build of the Sir Charles Lyell Centre.
In other spheres, Charles Darwin challenged the views on creation after being influenced by Scottish geologist Charles Lyell.
Yet within that succession, there was little change, it is pointed out, by comparison with works by Charles Darwin and Charles Lyell.
The mountain and its glacier are named for famed nineteenth-century geologist Charles Lyell, friend and colleague of Charles Darwin, who, ironically, was resistant to the idea of "ice ages" when it was first introduced in the 1830s.
It was in 1858 that Wallace wrote his essay on natural selection, mailing it to Darwin and the botanist Joseph Hooker and geologist Charles Lyell.
13), and continues through a dinner party with Charles Darwin, Charles Lyell, and Robert Brown to wind up with his own travels on the Sargasso Sea.