James Hutton

Painted by Sir Henry Raeburn (1776)
Statue of James Hutton, Scottish National Portrait Gallery.  Location: 55.95568°N, -3.19305°W
Front entrance to Hutton's farm Slighhouses. Location: 55.82675°N, -2.28586°W
The memorial to James Hutton at his grave in Greyfriars Kirkyard. Location: 55.94563°N, -3.1922°W
Hutton's Glen Tilt exposure at collapsed Dail-an-eas Bridge upstream from Forest Lodge, drawn by John Clerk of Eldin in 1785. The bridge collapsed in approximately 1973. Location: 56.85108°N, -3.74182°W
Intrusive dike eroded by Tay River near Stobhall described by Hutton.  Location: 56.48964°N, -3.42455°W
Geological dike eroded by River Garry at Dalnacardoch described by Hutton and drawn by Clerk.  Location: 56.88049°N, -4.09473°W
Hutton's Section on Edinburgh's Salisbury Crags. Location: 55.9432°N, -3.1672°W
Hutton's Unconformity on Arran
Hutton Unconformity at Jedburgh. Photograph (2003) below Clerk of Eldin illustration (1787).  Location: 55.4721°N, -2.5545°W
An eroded outcrop at Siccar Point showing sloping red sandstone above vertical greywacke was sketched by Sir James Hall in 1788. Location: 55.9315°N, -2.3013°W
John Kay's caricature of James Hutton studying the "faces" of rock (1787).
Street sign in the Kings Buildings complex in Edinburgh to the memory of James Hutton

Scottish geologist, agriculturalist, chemical manufacturer, naturalist and physician.

- James Hutton

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Assumption that the same natural laws and processes that operate in our present-day scientific observations have always operated in the universe in the past and apply everywhere in the universe.

Hutton's Unconformity at Jedburgh. Above: John Clerk of Eldin's 1787 illustration. Below: 2003 photograph.
Cliff at the east of Siccar Point in Berwickshire, showing the near-horizontal red sandstone layers above vertically tilted greywacke rocks.
Charles Lyell at the British Association meeting in Glasgow 1840

Coined by William Whewell, it was originally proposed in contrast to catastrophism by British naturalists in the late 18th century, starting with the work of the geologist James Hutton in his many books including Theory of the Earth.

John Playfair

Church of Scotland minister, remembered as a scientist and mathematician, and a professor of natural philosophy at the University of Edinburgh.

John Playfair – Portrait by Sir Henry Raeburn
Sir John Playfair by Sir Francis Chantrey
Memorial to John Playfair, Old Calton Burial Ground, Edinburgh
Monument to John Playfair on Calton Hill, Edinburgh
Explication de Playfair sur la Théorie de la Terre, 1815

He is best known for his book Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory of the Earth (1802), which summarised the work of James Hutton.

Scottish Enlightenment

The period in 18th- and early-19th-century Scotland characterised by an outpouring of intellectual and scientific accomplishments.

David Hume and Adam Smith on the Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Among the Scottish thinkers and scientists of the period were Joseph Black, Robert Burns, William Cullen, Adam Ferguson, David Hume, Francis Hutcheson, James Hutton, John Playfair, Thomas Reid, Adam Smith, and Dugald Stewart.


Buried erosional or non-depositional surface separating two rock masses or strata of different ages, indicating that sediment deposition was not continuous.

Hutton's Unconformity at Jedburgh, Scotland, illustrated by John Clerk in 1787 and photographed in 2003.
Angular unconformity
Disconformity at Horni Pocernice, Czech Republic
Disconformity (at the hammer) between underlying Mississippian Borden Formation and overlying Pennsylvanian Sharon Conglomerate, near Jackson, Ohio
There is a billion-year gap in the geologic record where this 500-million-year-old dolomite nonconformably overlies 1.5-billion-year-old rhyolite, near Taum Sauk Hydroelectric Power Station, Missouri.
thumb|Nonconfirmity at Ratssteinbruch near Dresden, Germany
Hutton's angular unconformity at Siccar Point where 345-million-year-old Devonian Old Red Sandstone overlies 425-million-year-old Silurian greywacke<ref name=FieldExcursion>{{cite web |url=http://www.geos.ed.ac.uk/undergraduate/field/siccarpoint/ |title=Siccar Point |author=Cliff Ford |date=2 September 2003 |work=Field Excursion Preview |publisher=University of Edinburgh School of GeoSciences |access-date=2008-10-20 |archive-date=2007-06-30 |archive-url=https://web.archive.org/web/20070630130328/http://www.geos.ed.ac.uk/undergraduate/field/siccarpoint/ |url-status=dead }}</ref>
Angular unconformity of Triassic rocks overlying steeply-tilted Carboniferous rocks at Praia do Telheiro, Portugal
Angular unconformity between the underlying Dockum Group and the overlying Exeter Sandstone at Steamboat Butte in the valley of the Dry Cimmarron, New Mexico
Angular unconformity in Jingtai County, China

The significance of angular unconformity (see below) was shown by James Hutton, who found examples of Hutton's Unconformity at Jedburgh in 1787 and at Siccar Point in 1788.

Metamorphic rock

Metamorphic rocks arise from the transformation of existing rock to new types of rock in a process called metamorphism.

Quartzite, a type of metamorphic rock
A metamorphic rock, deformed during the Variscan orogeny, at Vall de Cardós, Lérida, Spain
Metamorphic rock containing staurolite and almandine garnet
A mylonite (through a petrographic microscope)
Folded foliation in a metamorphic rock from near Geirangerfjord, Norway
Mississippian marble in Big Cottonwood Canyon, Wasatch Mountains, Utah.
A contact metamorphic rock made of interlayered calcite and serpentine from the Precambrian of Canada. Once thought to be a pseudofossil called Eozoön canadense. Scale in mm.
Basalt hand sample showing fine texture
Amphibolite formed by metamorphosis of basalt

The importance of heating in the formation of metamorphic rock was first noted by the pioneering Scottish naturalist, James Hutton, who is often described as the father of modern geology.


Scientist who studies the solid, liquid, and gaseous matter that constitutes Earth and other terrestrial planets, as well as the processes that shape them.

Scotsman James Hutton, father of modern geology
"Geologists at work" from the U.S. Geological and Geographic Survey of the Territories. (1874 - 06/30/1879) Photographer: William Henry Jackson
A young geologist learns about flow banding
A geologist working in the Arctic
Geologists exploring Jurassic sedimentary rocks in Makhtesh Gadol, Negev Desert, Israel
Geologist explaining the importance of volcanic ash layers to students on field in Iceland
"Picturesque camp made by a lone geologist on the cinders of Inferno". This photo was taken during a U.S. Department of the Interior Geological Survey in 1921
Geologist mud logging, common in petroleum and water-well drilling
The rock hammer and hand lens (or loupe) are two of the most characteristic tools carried by geologists in the field.

James Hutton is often viewed as the first modern geologist.

Charles Lyell

Scottish geologist who demonstrated the power of known natural causes in explaining the earth's history.

Portrait of Lyell by George J. Stodart
The main geographical
divisions of Scotland
Charles Lyell at the British Association meeting in Glasgow 1840. Painting by Alexander Craig.
Lyell Family Grave in Brookwood Cemetery with a memorial to Lyell
"Professor Ichthyosaurus" shows his pupils the skull of extinct man, caricature of Lyell by Henry De la Beche (1830)
Lyell between 1865 and 1870
The frontispiece from Elements of Geology
Lyell argued that volcanoes like Vesuvius had built up gradually.
Lateral moraine on a glacier joining the Gorner Glacier, Zermatt, Switzerland.
Charles Darwin
Alfred Russel Wallace in 1862.
California's Mount Lyell group
Geological evidences of the antiquity of man, 1863

Building on the innovative work of James Hutton and his follower John Playfair, Lyell favoured an indefinitely long age for the earth, despite evidence suggesting an old but finite age.

Forth and Clyde Canal

Canal opened in 1790, crossing central Scotland; it provided a route for the seagoing vessels of the day between the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Clyde at the narrowest part of the Scottish Lowlands.

The Forth and Clyde Canal, near Bonnybridge and Larbert
Bar Hill and Twechar with Kilsyth and Croy in the background
The branch within Glasgow from Maryhill to Port Dundas, showing Ruchill Church.
The unique Drop Lock at Dalmuir takes boats below a fixed bridge.
At Bowling the canal widens to a basin at the sea lock to the River Clyde.

The geologist James Hutton became very involved in the canal between 1767 and 1774; he contributed his geological knowledge, made extended site inspections, and acted both as a shareholder and as a member of the management committee.

Adam Smith

Scottish economist and philosopher who was a pioneer of political economy and key figure during the Scottish Enlightenment.

The posthumous c. 1800 Muir portrait at the Scottish National Gallery
Portrait of Smith's mother, Margaret Douglas
François Quesnay, one of the leaders of the physiocratic school of thought
David Hume was a friend and contemporary of Smith's.
A commemorative plaque for Smith is located in Smith's home town of Kirkcaldy.
James Tassie's enamel paste medallion of Smith provided the model for many engravings and portraits that remain today.
Portrait of Smith by John Kay, 1790
Later building on the site where Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations
The first page of The Wealth of Nations, 1776 London edition
1922 printing of An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations
Smith's burial place in Canongate Kirkyard
The Adam Smith Theatre in Kirkcaldy
A statue of Smith in Edinburgh's High Street, erected through private donations organised by the Adam Smith Institute
Statue of Smith built in 1867–1870 at the old headquarters of the University of London, 6 Burlington Gardens
Adam Smith's Spinning Top, sculpture by Jim Sanborn at Cleveland State University

Smith's literary executors were two friends from the Scottish academic world: the physicist and chemist Joseph Black and the pioneering geologist James Hutton.

Joseph Black

Scottish physicist and chemist, known for his discoveries of magnesium, latent heat, specific heat, and carbon dioxide.

Mezzotint engraving by James Heath after Sir Henry Raeburn
Joseph Black plaque by James Tassie, Hunterian Museum, Glasgow
A precision analytical balance
The world's first ice-calorimeter, used in the winter of 1782–83, by Antoine Lavoisier and Pierre-Simon Laplace, to determine the heat evolved in various chemical changes, calculations which were based on Joseph Black's prior discovery of latent heat.
Joseph Black's grave in Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh

He was also close to pioneering geologist James Hutton.