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» » Ages in Chaos: James Hutton and the Discovery of Deep Time
Ages in Chaos: James Hutton and the Discovery of Deep Time e-book


Stephen Baxter






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Forge Books; First Edition edition (November 1, 2004)





Ages in Chaos: James Hutton and the Discovery of Deep Time e-book

by Stephen Baxter

Ultimately, Hutton's discovery of deep time changed our view of the universe forever.

Ultimately, Hutton's discovery of deep time changed our view of the universe forever. Online Stores ▾. Audible Barnes & Noble Walmart eBooks Apple Books Google Play Abebooks Book Depository Alibris Indigo Better World Books IndieBound.

Baxter contributed two books to this series for young adults. James Hutton and the Discovery of Deep time. How James Hutton rocked the world". See The Web (series). 2004 (United States). The Science of Avatar. Archived from the original on 5 April 2012. Baxter, Stephen (2010), The Science of Avatar, Orion Publishing Group, Limited, ISBN 978-0-297-86343-4.

James Hutton, a gentleman with . .This is a very, very good book - its combination of Hutton's philosophy of knowledge with his theory of the Earth is a great step in the right direction - the first in a popular book cencerning Hutton

James Hutton, a gentleman with .This is a very, very good book - its combination of Hutton's philosophy of knowledge with his theory of the Earth is a great step in the right direction - the first in a popular book cencerning Hutton. It aslo places Hutton in his intellectual millieu really well.

Ages in Chaos: James Hutton and the Discovery of Deep Time. Hardcover Paperback Kindle. That is the universe exists as a single huge quantum superstructure and that at the end of time, when intelligent life will have collected all information and transformed into the Complete or Ultimate observer who will then make the last observation. This observation will collapse all the entangled wave functions generated since the creation of the universe. The friends further hold that the ultimate observer will also decide which world line will be the real world line and that the observer will select the one in which humanity endures no Qax or squeem conquests or occupations.

Stephen Baxter, winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award, is the acclaimed author of Deep Future. Baxter shows all his narrative and novelistic skill in this wonderful sketch of the life and thoughts of James Hutton. We learn about Hutton, the agricultural innovator, as well as Hutton, the natural law thinker and Hutton the scientific observer.

James Hutton and the discovery of deep time. 1st Forge ed. by Stephen Baxter. Published 2004 by Forge in New York. Includes bibliographical references (p. -237) and index. Originally published as: Revolutions in the earth. A Tom Doherty Associates book.

Ultimately, Hutton's discovery of deep time changed our view of the . About the Author: STEPHEN BAXTER'S recent book, Evolution, was a New York Times Notable Book of 2003. James Hutton (1726–1797) was the father of modern geology, but as Baxter reveals, fellow scientists in Enlightenment Scotland didn't take to his ideas right away. Although more than a century earlier James Ussher had famously propounded that the beginning of the world as 4004 . by the 18th century, fossils and other geological evidence were undermining that proposition.

Deep time is the concept of geologic time. The philosophical concept of deep time was developed in the 18th century by Scottish geologist James Hutton (1726–1797); his "system of the habitable Earth" was a deistic mechanism keeping the world would eternally suitable for humans. The modern concept shows huge changes over the age of the Earth which has been determined to be, after a long and complex history of developments, around . 5 billion years.

Ages in Chaos: James Hutton and the Discovery of Deep Time". The Historian 70 (1): 142–143. deep time - n. Geology the multimillion year time frame within which scientists believe the earth has existed, and which is supported by the observation of natural, mostly geological, phenomen. seful english dictionary. Deep time (disambiguation) - Deep time refers to the concept of geologic time.

Hutton's discovery of deep time changed our view of humanity's place in the universe forever. Baxter also observes of the sexual politics of the time - Hutton had at least one illegitimate child, who was provided for but sent to London.

"This book, then, is the story of how a farmer's son from Scotland learned to peer into the deepest abysses of time. It is a drama of personality, landscape and ideas, of an intellectual revolution that shaped our world--and of a man whose vision, rooted in antiquity yet tinged with modern philosophies, was not only ahead of his own time but speaks to our new century."--From the ForewordIn the eighteenth century, the received wisdom, following Bishop Ussher's careful biblical calculations, was that the Earth was just six thousand years old. James Hutton, a gentleman farmer with a passion for rocks, knew that could not be the case. Looking at the formation of irregular strata in the layers of the Earth he boldly deduced that a much longer span of time would be required for the landscape he saw to have evolved. In the lusty and turbulent world of Enlightenment Scotland, he set out to prove it.He could not have achieved this without the help of his friends. Hutton's entourage in Edinburgh would turn out to be the leading thinkers of the age, including Erasmus Darwin, Adam Smith, James Watt, David Hume, and Joseph Black. But Hutton had his enemies, too. His geological theories would ignite profound religious debate and was condemned as "a wild and unnatural notion" that would lead to "skepticism, and at last to downright infidelity and atheism."Ultimately, however, his revelation was one of the most extraordinary and essential moments in scientific history. Hutton's discovery of deep time changed our view of humanity's place in the universe forever.Like Dava Sobel's bestselling Longitude, Ages In Chaos vividly captures a transcendent moment in the history of human accomplishment.
Author S Baxter wrote an interesting
book on James Hutton and the scientific clash
between those who thaught that earth was only a few thousand years old (Usher's view) and Hutton who examined the real geology of the field. It's a book that gives much background information on Edinburgh Enlightenment. It also shows how religion had a suffocating influence on freedom of scientific reasoning.
The book is a well deserved tribute to an original non-academic scientist, James Hutton.
The book is written with few technical terms, and when needed it gives sufficient information for the non-scholar reader,
The language used is fluent and understandable for foreign readers ( like myself)
Fairly arid going, though it certainly serves its purpose. Plus there are numerous digressions into the accomplishments of other Hutton friends such as James Watt (of steam engine fame). These forays tend to distract from the thrust (to use a geological analogy!) of the book but do provide some insight into the remarkable intellectual ferment of the Scottish enlightenment. Overall the book gives Hutton his due and does a nice job of showing just how difficult the young science of geology was to get right in the limitations of the era.
This book gives an accurate assessment of the contributions of James Hutton (1726-1797) to science in general and geology in particular. Baxter gives "deep time" emphasis, but he does this, not by allowing the question of time to dominate the book. The organization of the book serves to elucidate the scientific concept of geologic time, a concept which Hutton jump-started, and delineates how the concept of deep time has evolved to modern day.

New ground and interesting for me is Baxter's treatment of "design arguments" (page 42) stemming all the way back to Aristotle. "Fred Hoyle - the British astrophysicist who unraveled the production of carbon I stars - said in 1959, 'I do not believe that any scientist who examined the evidence would fail to draw the inference that the laws of nuclear physics have been deliberately designed with regard to the consequence they produce inside the stars."

Stephen Baxter, the author, is an award-winning science fiction writer and was formerly educated as a physicist and engineer. I am a geologist by training and profession, and initially wondered if Baxter could give an adequate perspective to a work on Hutton. Please let me state to my geological friends that Baxter seems to have assimilated geology very well and shares most or all of our sensibilities. I can only guess that writing science fiction must be wonderful training and preparation for understanding and explaining the history of science and geology. As an example of two areas that satisfied my geologic chauvinism, Baxter pays very close attention to the roles of "field work" and Hutton's rock collection in the development of his scientific conclusions. This was new Hutton territory for me and I found Baxter's treatment fascinating - great book.

One of Baxter's final conclusions concerning Hutton is: "There have been many great geologists, but no figure before or since bequeathed a package of so many profound and integrated insights as James Hutton. And he was the first to construct a model of Earth's history containing its most essential feature, a vast and deep abyss of time."

To reach this conclusion Baxter takes us through a real History of Science lesson, not just Hutton biography, but the biography and contributions of his precursors, teachers, scientific peers, and successors who were impacted, conflicted by, and who supported and elaborated Hutton's work. Baxter is able to do this in 231 pages, and I think it would have been difficult to do it in fewer.

Baxter quotes Stephen Jay Gould: "......though Hutton was a great thinker, he was not a modern thinker. And he has been hugely misunderstood" (page 216). Baxter attempts to place the reader in the historic context in which Hutton lived: "How much harder it was for Hutton in a time when the textbooks had yet to be written!" There is a splendid review of James Ussher, the Irish bishop, that had established the earth's birthday as 22 October, 4004, BC, on a Saturday, at about six in the evening. Although this was established religious dogma at the time of Hutton's youth " was obvious there was something wrong. You didn't even have to look at the rocks to know that." (Baxter, page 23). And, going against the Church was dangerous. Some of Hutton's most vociferous critics decried him as an atheist, in print. In addition to the obvious religious conflicts, Hutton's writing was obscure.

He assumed that the reader was more knowledgeable. "In addition nobody had really understood Hutton's careful epistemology and his uniformitarianism, or his arguments about heat - partly because he hadn't sufficiently explained them in a presentation Playfair called too brief." (Baxter, page 147) "Hutton was endeavoring to produce a complete and consistent body of physical theory and epistemological methodology to support his assertions about the Earth;..."(Baxter, page 177). By separating his observations from his inferences, Hutton was trying to explain the basis on which he derived his hypotheses, and by opening up his methodology for examination he was setting out his thinking as a basis for a true science of geology in the future - for that methodology itself could be improved (Baxter, page 132).

It was almost as if Hutton had two enormous goals: 1) explaining how the earth worked and 2) how to think and reason scientifically about the new unnamed science of geology. It is no wonder that readers had difficulty.

Playfair is well know to all geologists as the translator for Hutton. He was a warm friend and sought to make the significance of Hutton's work understood. He also wrote a biographic sketch of Hutton after his death which Baxter suggests is too idealized. Baxter attempts, I think successfully, to sleuth and flesh out the real man, Hutton, quoting some of his letters which are lively and salty.

Hutton begins university at age fourteen (1740), and studied math under Colin Maclaurin, who had been recommended by Newton. Hutton developed an interest in chemistry in spite of the University of Edinburgh not having a chemistry curriculum. After three years at University he took a position as an apprentice to a solicitor, but this did not work out. Hutton was still interested in chemistry. He went back to the University to study medicine. He met a fellow medical student named John Clerk who was from a prominent Midlothian land and coal mine owning family. Baxter believes that this began Hutton's interest, at age eighteen, in minerals, coal, and rocks (1744). After three years studying medicine at Edinburgh he left to continue his studies abroad. At age 21 he arrived in Paris (1747). "Hutton probably attended Professor Francois Rouelle's lectures on mineralogy in Paris. Rouelle pioneered ideas, concerning the order in which rocks had been laid down....." (Baxter, Page 45). From Paris he went to Leiden to complete his medical training. He wrote a thesis in French entitled, "On the Circulation of Blood in the Microcosm".

Returning to Edinburgh through London at age 23 he struggled with what to do next (1749). Apparently being a physician was not in the cards. He and a friend James Davie began a business producing sal ammoniac which was used in dyes and in the production of tin and brass. It was being imported from Egypt but he and Davie had worked a method to produce it in Scotland from chimney soot collected in Edinburgh.

"But now his life was devastated by scandal." (Baxter, page 58) There is fragmentary evidence of a women, and a son emerges after Hutton's death. The episode was so embarrassing to Hutton that he felt a need to retreat from Edinburgh to two small farm properties of his father's southeast of Edinburgh along the coast in Berwickshire (1752). "The Land was wild and uncultivated, just open fields that backed on to sheep country. Stones had to be split and hauled away before Hutton could work the soil at all" (Baxter, page 64).

Here from age 26 to age 39 farming became his chief occupation. Initially he focused on learning what he could from other farmers that were sucessful. He traveled to and apprenticed under excellent farmers in Norfolk, Yarmouth, and Belton. "He made many journeys - mostly on foot - to different parts of England. He visited Northumberland, Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Cambridgeshire, Oxfordshire, and the Isle of Wight. These trips were made primarily to study agricultural techniques, but by this time Hutton had also begun to study geology and mineralogy in a more serious way" (Baxter, page 61). "Hutton would later boast that he could tell you where a piece of gravel had come from anywhere on the eastern side of Britain" (Baxter, page, 61).

"Hutton persevered with his farming, and slowly his situation improved. His Norfolk plough transformed the land. As Adam Ferguson noted, 'The joke [of his Norfolk plough] has become serious, and is now the general practice from one end of Scotland to the other.' The farm, once 'very wild and uncultivated piece of land', had a 'degree of neatness and garden-like culture, which in farming had not been seen before. Persons of every description came from every quarter to gratify their intellectual curiosity, as well as to get information' " (Baxter, page 72). With pioneering techniques, he had greatly improved the condition of his land, and his agricultural studies had become the focal point of his interlocking interests in chemistry, meteorology, geology and botany. His achievements showed the quality of his character and his mind" (Baxter, page 80).

Hutton's natural focus on soil must have led to this key intuition:...."the world did not suffer only decay: perhaps it also had the capability for repair" (Baxter, page 76).

"This was Hutton's picture, then: rocks decayed through erosion, the rubble was consolidated into new rocks, and then somehow uplifted to make new lands - erosion, deposition, consolidation, uplift. And cupped in the heart of this immense rocky machine, the priceless soil that sustained life was subtly created" (Baxter, page 78). Arguing with the support of final causes and design arguments Hutton reached this hypothesis. ".....starting from first principles - that the final cause for the Earth is to sustain life - Hutton deduced that it must have some mechanism of repair from erosion, just as Harvey had once deduced the existence of capillaries in the body, then undetected, to complete his model of blood's circulation. The task now was to find that mechanism....." Baxter continues on page 77 quoting Hutton: ' This is the view in which we are now to examine the globe, to see if there be, in the constitution of this world a reproductive operation, by which a ruined constitution may be again repaired, and a duration or stability thus procured to the machine, considered as a world sustaining plants and animals.'

At the age of 41 in 1767 Hutton determined to return to Edinburgh. He build a new home facing the spectacular geology of Salisbury Crags and Arthur's seat for himself and his three sisters. Previously...."He had been elected to a committee which was to supervise the construction of the Forth and Clyde canal" (Baxter, page 79). "It was against the background of the elegant new city, and in the heads of a literate, independent-minded and newly prosperous populace, that the Scottish Enlightenment would bloom, causing Voltaire to say, 'It is to Scotland that we must look for our idea of civilization' (Baxter, page 86).

It was a relief for Hutton to move into his new house on St. John's Hill, his collection was taking up to much space.......Hutton would examine his specimens chemically and under the microscope, and then varnish them to keep them looking bright. He would prune his hoard to focus on the most intellectually valuable samples" (Baxter, page 97).

This era was know as the Scottish Enlightenment. Many of the most famous men were personal acquaintances or good friends of James Hutton. The David Hume family farm was near Hutton's farm. Joseph Black, Adam Smith, and James Watt were personal friends. Hutton visited with Erasmus Darwin, grandfather to Charles Darwin. And Hutton attracted and mentored younger talents such as Sir James Hall and John Playfair. These men met and shared their scientific theories at the Philosophical Society and at gentleman's clubs such the Poker Club. Large volumes of Claret were also imbibed.

As previously mentioned Hutton began a tradition of field work and travel with his agricultural studies. He went back to the low countries in 1754. In 1764 he traveled to the Scottish highlands with George Clerk-Maxwell where Hutton compiled notes, observations, and reflections on the geology. In 1774 made a long trip to Birmingham, Wales, Anglesey, Wiltshire, Bath, Warwickshire, and Derbyshire. " early as 1764 his forays into the field had become directed and specific, as he sought evidence to support his arguments" (Baxter, page 116). "In Wales he mostly had to ride on horseback, and his backside took a good deal of punishment: during this forty-day tour his riding breeches would wear out four times" (Baxter, page 111). In 1779 he went to Shropshire to climb Wrekin. In 1785 he went to Glen Tilt. In 1787 he went to Arran to search for his concept of an unconformity with, marginal results. Later in 1787 he discovered his first clear unconformity at Jedburgh, by serendipity in the "borders region" of Scotland. And finally by a directed effort from the sea to the coast he discovered at Siccar Point, a clear cut example of an unconformity. On that day he was accompanied in the field by John Playfair and Sir John Hall. What better way to make permanent disciples. Baxter quotes from Playfair: "The mind seemed to grow giddy by looking so far into the abyss of time; and while we listened with earnestness and admiration to the philosopher who was now unfolding to us the order and series of those wonderful events, we became sensible how much farther reason may sometimes go than imagination can venture to follow."

Baxter does a masterful job of piecing together the rest of the story, and at the same time putting it into historical context. This includes the oral presentation in 1785 and print version in 1788 and book version of Hutton's Theory of the Earth in 1795 and the blistering attacks which followed. "Hutton knew he had to defend himself. Even more so then in 1785, Britain in 1793 was not a good place to be called a heretic" (Baxter, page 174).

"By now most European geologists were divided into two camps, neither of which had been influenced much by Hutton's theories. The 'Vulcanists', including Desmarest and Faujas, were fire geologists, who believed that volcanoes must have had significant effects on the evolution of the Earth. The other school was the Neptunists, who thought volcanoes were irrelevant special effects. To them water was the key agent . All Neptunists hypothesized some kind of universal ocean, out of which the rocks had been deposited. But there was still a whole spectrum of theologically inclined thinkers, ranging from those who still held to the most literal interpretation of the Bible account, to others who interpreted its teaching in a more symbolic or allegorical way" (Baxter, page 165-166).

On a Saturday in March 1797 James Hutton died. "Essential or not, Hutton's huge work was almost universally ignored by learned society, then and since. Even his closest friend, Black, wouldn't buy a word of it" (Baxter, page 168). These words by Playfair serve as a memorial: "With [Hutton's] relish for what ever is beautiful and sublime in science, we may easily conceive what pleasure he derived from his own geological speculations. The novelty and grandeur of the objects offered by them to the imagination, the simple and uniform order given to the whole natural history of the Earth, and, above all, the views opened of the wisdom that governs nature, are things to which hardly any man could be insensible, but to him they were matter, not of transient delight, but of solid and permanent happiness....No author was ever more disposed to consider the enjoyment of them, as the full and adequate reward of his labours" (Baxter, page 185).

Baxter continues with the history of the conflicts among the Vulcanists, Neptunists, Catatastrophists, and Uniformitarianists and the development of the concept of geologic time. By and large Hutton's team wins but the men he mentored, John Playfair, and Sir James Hall led the way by clarifying communication, updating, and finishing the science. "In 1824, aged sixty-three Hall accompanied yet another keen young geologist on a repeat of Hutton's classic expedition to Siccar Point. The youngster was much impressed - and, a quarter of a century after Hutton's death, it was to him that the responsibility for the next stage of the argument would devolve. ....... His name was Charles Lyell" (Baxter, page 203).

Baxter abstracts the rest of the story, carrying on with Lyell, Darwin, Kelvin, Rutherford, and Holmes to near present day. This neat and concise volume gives us an excellent introduction to James Hutton and how he almost single-handedly turned the study of the earth into a science called geology; and gave us a way of fruitfully thinking about and making sense of the Earth.
This is a very, very good book -- its combination of Hutton's philosophy of knowledge with his theory of the Earth is a great step in the right direction -- the first in a popular book cencerning Hutton. It aslo places Hutton in his intellectual millieu really well.

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