Dedicated to the teaching of Earth Sciences


Prof. Sean Tvelia Suffolk County Community College


Geology Through Time

Throughout the history of geology there have been two major schools of thought controlling scientific thinking: catastrophism and uniformitarianism. Both ideologies tried to explain how the world and features like mountains and oceans were created, however, both concepts differed quite dramatically when it came to processes. The idea of uniformitarianism is most often associated with James Hutton, though he is not the first to suggest the concept he was its primary cheerleader. James Hutton saw the Earth not as a stagnant planet, like the catastrophists thought, but a dynamic one. A planet that was ever evolving; he believed the processes that created Earth were cyclical and continued today. In "The Theory of the Earth" published in 1785 Hutton argued that the same processes that shaped the mountains continue to shape the earth today.

In Hutton's eyes all parts of the Earth System were linked; he also realized that interactions between Earth's systems varied both spatially and temporally. In some cases systematic interactions can take place within fractions of a milimeter in a matter of miliseconds such as at the water-air interface or they can take place over thousands of kilometers over the course of thousands of years as with convection within the Earth.

Hutton's observations changed the course of geology. They gave science a new way of looking at earth processes, a way in which it would now be possible to not only describe how and why things are the way they are but also to describe how they may change in the future. Thus, through James Hutton, modern geology was born.

Chapter Contents:

1.0: The Science of Geology

1.1: Geology Through Time

1.2: The Scientific Method

1.3: The Big Bang

1.4: The Solar System

1.5: The Earth

1.6: The Earth System