January 2005 Meeting

Monday, January 10, 2005
6:00 - 7:30 pm

Pellissippi State Technical Community College
10915 Hardin Valley Road, Knoxville
Lamar Alexander Building
Room 223


The Birthplace of Modern Geology - 18th Century Scotland

Dr. Don W. Byerly
Professor Emeritus
Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences
University of Tennessee


A recent trip afforded an opportunity to see how Scotland's landscape and culture are integrally related to the diverse geologic setting of the British Isles, and how the cultural heritage of our southern Appalachians is a reflection of the Scots, the Irish and the Welsh who immigrated here. Scotland, as part of the ancient continent, Laurentia, forms the northernmost extension of the Appalachian Highlands and therefore is integrally related to the natural history of our own Appalachians.

Our trip visited some of the same sites where observations were made by early scientists like James Hutton, John Playfair, and David Ure who substantially contributed to the period of scientific "awakening" in Europe. One of the most profound concepts established in the 18th Century was that the Earth had a very long history or "deep time". The publication of this concept by Charles Lyell had a strong bearing on the seminal work by Charles Darwin. Society, especially physicians and clergy, also became fascinated with this concept of the Earth's antiquity, resulting in many great fossil collections and museums of natural history. Following the lead of James Hutton, giants like Nicol, Sedgewick, Murchison, Lyell, Geikie, Lapworth, Peach and Horne, all Scotsmen contributed to the founding of Modern Geology. Include William Smith from England, south of suture with Avalonia, with this group and the personae of geology's founding is almost complete.

The program will be a travelogue of the trip that will attempt to relate cultural as well as geological sites visited on the trip.


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