Charles Lyell

Sir Charles Lyell ( born November 14, 1797 Kinnordy in Forfarshire, † February 22, 1875 in London) was a British geologist.


Early years

Charles Lyell was the eldest of ten children. Lyell's father of the same name, the botanist Charles Lyell, made ​​sure that his son early grappled with science.

Lyell studied at Exeter College of Oxford first law, but devoted himself to next at the instigation of William Buckland geology. When he settled in 1819 as a trustee in London, he soon became a zealous member of the Geological Society of London. His first geological Thesis Paper On a Recent Formation of Freshwater Limestone in Forfarshire he introduced before 1822.

Turn to geology

In 1827, Lyell was dealing with legal issues and completely devoted himself to a long geological career, during which he helped mainly that the ideas of James Hutton interspersed who had these decades previously presented (see also actualism ). This makes it one of Hutton of the founders of modern geology.

His most important work was in the field of stratigraphy. In 1828 he traveled to the south of France and Italy. During this trip, he realized that it is possible the existing " Strata " assign to the number and the distribution of shells. On this basis, he divided the Tertiary period into three sections: Pliocene, Miocene and Eocene.

Professor of Geology

In 1831 he was appointed professor of geology at King's College London. In 1832 he married Mary Horner. The marriage remained childless.

His epoch-making activity began with the publication of the Principles of Geology. In this comprehensive textbook, he joined the then prevailing notions of violent geological upheavals ( Kataklysmentheorie ) counter and showed that the presently observable geological processes entirely sufficient to explain the construction of the earth's solid crust when they just often enough, in sufficiently large periods repeat. This view had already been expressed in a similar way Karl Ernst Adolf von Hoff in Germany, but without finding any attention. She broke her now surprisingly fast track because Lyell underpinned the theory irrefutable proof by numerous observations, and soon became the dominant school of thought.

The work Principles of Geology, strongly influenced the work of Charles Darwin, who studied it mainly during his years voyage. In the later years, the two men shared a friendship with Charles Lyell may be counted in Darwin's supporters, even though he could not understand until the last consequence of views.

The plant called the Elements of Geology joined. To test his principles Lyell undertook journeys through Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Scandinavia and North America. On his first tour of North America in the years 1841 and 1842 he visited the Cliffs of Joggins, Nova Scotia, Canada where he received a guided tour of Abraham Gesner, the former top geologists of New Brunswick. 1852, on his second North American tour, Lyell Joggins visited again, this time with John William Dawson. His experiences and impressions he published along with descriptions geologischern in Travels in North America as well as in A second visit to the United States of North America.

Lyell rejected the several centuries ongoing land uplift of the coast of Sweden after and gave a plausible explanation for the origin of Niagaratals: the retreat of Niagara Falls. In his last work Geological Evidences of the Antiquity of Man Lyell showed that there must have been people for much longer than had been previously believed.

Lyell died on 22 February 1875 in London and was given a funeral in Westminster Abbey.


1852 William Dawson discovered the world famous cliffs of Joggins in Canada, the extinct reptile species Hylonomus lyelli. The Style epithet lyelli he chose to honor his friend. Even the English moss Orthotrichum lyelli is named after Charles Lyell.

1935 of the lunar crater Lyell was named after him, 1973, the Mars crater Lyell.

Pictures of Charles Lyell