The early 1900's, who were the scientists associated with Uniformitarianism and Catastrophism and what evidence did they use to bolster their arguments?

Essay by heymoeUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, July 2002

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The scientists associated with the debate over the interpretation of the geological record were:

·Scottish geologist James Hutton

·Another Scotsman, John Playfair,

Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory "(1802)

·Abraham Gottlob Werner, a German geologist

·French naturalist G. L. Cuvier

·English geologist Sir Charles Lyell


Uniformitarianism, in geology, was first advanced by Scottish geologist James Hutton who may be regarded as the originator of the doctrine of Uniformitarianism. In his 'Theory of the Earth', Hutton states that changes in the earth's surface that occurred in a past geologic time could be referenced with the same causes as changes that are now being produced on the earth's surface.

Hutton's theory was further expanded by another Scotsman, John Playfair, in his Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory. Playfair presented Hutton's theories in an intelligent and credible way. Playfair's simple and eloquent style consisted of a series of chapters clearly stating the Huttonian theory and then stating the facts to support it, and the arguments given against it.

It made little progress, however, against the teachings of the school of Abraham Gottlob Werner, a German geologist, and his theory of dynamic geology. According to his theory of neptunism, the earth was originally an ocean of water from which rocks were borne forming most of the dry land.

Now, Uniformitarianism was overshadowed by the doctrine of Catastrophism, the doctrine stated, that at certain intervals in the earth's history all living things have been destroyed by catastrophes (floods or earthquakes) and replaced by an entirely different population. During these catastrophes, the features of the earth's surface, such as mountains and valleys, were formed. This interpretation of the earth's history was accepted by a great majority of geologists. It was systematized and defended by the Frenchman Georges Cuvier. He rejected the theory of evolution in...