One of the key works in the nineteenth-century battle between science and Scripture, Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology (1830-33) sought to explain the geological state of the modern Earth by considering the long-term effects of observable natural phenomena. Written with clarity and a dazzling intellectual passion, it is both a seminal work of modern geology and a compelling precursor to Darwinism, exploring the evidence for radical changes in climate and geography across the ages and speculating on the progressive development of life. A profound influence on Darwin, Principles of Geology also captured the imagination of contemporaries such as Melville, Emerson, Tennyson and George Eliot, transforming science with its depiction of the powerful forces that shape the natural world.
SIR CHARLES LYELL (1797-1875), British geologist. Lyell is most famous for his great geological opus: The Principles of Geology: Being an Attempt to Explain the Former Changes of the Earth's Surface, by Reference to Causes now in Operation (3 vols 1830-33). Jim Secord is a lecturer in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge and is the author of Controversy in Victorian Geology (1986).