Charles Lyell, considered the founder of modern geology, studied law at Oxford but, as he was passionate about the natural sciences, he also attended the lectures and field trips of geologist William Buckland.

Influenced by Hutton’s Theory of the Earth, he focused on actualism and was against catastrophism. In 1827 he decided to give up his law practice and devote himself entirely to geology. His idea was to publish a book with all the material he had been collecting. Finally, the book Principles of Geology was published in three volumes (1830, 1832 and 1833), was a success and became the most influential geological work of the 19th century. It laid the foundations of modern geology by establishing a system for studying the Earth’s geological past, based on the idea that the present is the key to the past. Its importance lies in the fact that it proposes a working method based on three principles: actualism, uniformitarianism and dynamic equilibrium. They could be summarised in that geological processes have always been the same and that slow but steady forces have a greater effect than fast and violent ones. Lyell respected Cuvier’s work, with whom he had a good relationship, although he strongly disagreed with his catastrophist theory.

He maintained a very good friendship with Darwin, whom he met in 1836, on his return from his voyage on the Beagle. He was very interested in the rock samples he had been collecting and in his articles on geology. They saw each other frequently, and later wrote to each other, to discuss scientific questions of interest to both of them. One of them was that of deep time, which each needed to fit their theories: uniformitarianism needed the Earth to be very old, and evolution too. For a time, the theory of evolution and natural selection were a source of disagreement between them. But in 1863 Lyell published “The Geological Evidence of the Antiquity of Man“, in which he accepted the theory of evolution with some reservations; the following year, in his second edition, he fully accepted it. And with his approval, the theory gained many followers.

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