Charles Lyell - Lawyers, Career and Life

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Charles Lyell's Personal Details

Charles Lyell was a pioneering geologist from Britain, who studied the underlying forces which shaped the earth’s surface to its present day form

InformationDetail
BirthdayNovember 14, 1797
Died onFebruary 22, 1875
NationalityBritish
FamousLawyers, Intellectuals & Academics, Geographers, Geologists
Universities
  • Exeter College
  • Oxford
  • King's College London
  • University of Oxford
Birth PlaceAngus
GenderMale
Sun SignScorpio
Born inAngus
Famous asLawyer
Died at Age77

// Famous Lawyers

Charles Lyell's photo

Who is Charles Lyell?

Sir Charles Lyell was a British attorney and premier geologist of the 19th century. He is best remembered as the author of 'Principles of Geology,' which popularized the concept that the Earth was shaped by geological processes that continue today. He was introduced to science, particularly geology by his father who was a naturalist. He moved to London to become a barrister, or a lawyer specializing in higher court litigation, although his poor eyesight made it impossible. This prompted him to start his career in science. He was one of the first scientists to believe the Earth is older than 300 million years, and his scientific contributions contributed to the world's understanding of volcanoes, earthquakes, and geology. His version of geology was eventually called ‘uniformitarianism’ due to his insistence that processes that change the planet are uniform throughout time. He created a lens through which to view Earth's history, establishing that the forces that shape the planet have remained the same throughout time. Lyell was also a close friend of Charles Darwin and contributed to Darwin's thinking on evolution. His work, 'Principles of Geology', influenced Darwin so deeply that he imagined evolution as a type of biological uniformitarianism. To know more about the life and works of this eminent geologist read on

// Famous Intellectuals & Academics

Childhood & Early Life

He was born on November 17, 1797 to Charles Lyell, the son of a wealthy gentleman who inherited a large estate in Scotland.

The eldest of 10 children, he attended several private schools throughout his early life. Later he studied at the ‘Exeter College’, Oxford from 1816 to 1819, graduating BA second in classics.

After graduating, he moved to London to study law, although his weak eyesight made his studies difficult. To find relief, he turned to geological work outdoors, which led to his career in geology.

Career

He met renowned naturalist Georges Cuvier and Alexander von Humboldt on a trip to Paris in 1823, and had the opportunity to study the Paris Basin.

In 1824, he studied sediment formation in freshwater lakes close to Kinnordy, Scotland.

In 1825, Lyell was admitted to the bar, although his father's financial support allowed him to practice geology more than law. He published his first geological papers that year.

While still practicing law, Lyell began planning a book to stress that there are natural explanations for geological phenomena and that these forces are unchanging through time.

Between 1828 and 1829, he studied the region of Mt. Etna, where he found evidence to confirm his beliefs.

After returning to London, he began work on his book, 'Principles of Geology,' the first volume of which was published in 1830.

Lyell's book made his argument for uniformitarianism, or the idea of uniform geological forces that have shaped earth throughout its history. The book was controversial as many people relied on the biblical story of the flood to explain earth's geological features.

He published the second and third volumes of the 'Principles of Geology' between 1831 and 1833.

He lived a quiet life for the next eight years, devoting his time to revising his book and gathering data for new editions.

In 1838, he published 'Elements of Geology,' which described European fossils and rocks from the most recent to the oldest discovered.

Beginning in 1841, he spent a year traveling and lecturing in North America, which included a lecture at the Lowell Institute in Boston that attracted thousands.

In 1858, after exhaustive study, he proved that Mt. Etna was built by repeated small volcanic eruptions instead of a single large upheaval as many geologists of the time believed.

Late in his career, he published 'Student's Elements of Geology,' a condensed version of his three-volume work that by then had become very large.

Major Works

He wrote 'Principles of Geology,' which challenged many popular geological theories of the time and explained earthquakes, volcanoes, and other geological principles.

He published 'Antiquity of Man' in 1863, which discussed proof of the long existence of humans on the earth.

Awards & Achievements

He was awarded the geology chair of ‘King's College’, London in 1831, although he resigned after three years due to the Church of England's influence over the institution.

He was awarded the prestigious ‘Royal Medal’, or ‘Queen's Medal’, in 1834 for his scientific achievements. This medal is awarded every year by the ‘Royal Society’ for important contributions to the advancement of knowledge.

In 1858, he received the ‘Copley Medal’, which is the highest award of the ‘Royal Society of London’.

In 1866, he was awarded the ‘Wollaston Medal’, a scientific award for geology that is the highest award granted by the ‘Geological Society of London’.

He was made a foreign member of the ‘Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences’ in 1866.

Personal Life & Legacy

In 1832, Lyell married Mary Horner, who was also associated with the ‘Geological Society of London’.

He died on February 22, 1875 at the age of 77 of natural causes. He was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Places named after him include Lyell, New Zealand; Mount Lyell in California; Mount Lyell in Canada; Lyell Land in Greenland; Mount Lyell in Tasmania; Lyell Glacier in South Georgia; and Lyell Canyon.

Trivia

Charles Darwin took Lyell's book 'Principles of Geology' with him on his voyage aboard the 'Beagle.'

Lyell was one of the first to donate books to help found the ‘Chicago Public Library’ following the ‘Great Chicago Fire of 1871’.

// Famous Geographers

Charles Lyell awards

YearNameAward

Other

1858 - Copley Medal
1834 - Royal Medal

Charles Lyell biography timelines

  • // 17th Nov 1797
    He was born on November 17, 1797 to Charles Lyell, the son of a wealthy gentleman who inherited a large estate in Scotland.
  • // 1816 To 1819
    The eldest of 10 children, he attended several private schools throughout his early life. Later he studied at the ‘Exeter College’, Oxford from 1816 to 1819, graduating BA second in classics.
  • // 1823
    He met renowned naturalist Georges Cuvier and Alexander von Humboldt on a trip to Paris in 1823, and had the opportunity to study the Paris Basin.
  • // 1824
    In 1824, he studied sediment formation in freshwater lakes close to Kinnordy, Scotland.
  • // 1825
    In 1825, Lyell was admitted to the bar, although his father's financial support allowed him to practice geology more than law. He published his first geological papers that year.
  • // 1828 To 1829
    Between 1828 and 1829, he studied the region of Mt. Etna, where he found evidence to confirm his beliefs.
  • // 1830
    After returning to London, he began work on his book, 'Principles of Geology,' the first volume of which was published in 1830.
  • // 1831 To 1833
    He published the second and third volumes of the 'Principles of Geology' between 1831 and 1833.
  • // 1831
    He was awarded the geology chair of ‘King's College’, London in 1831, although he resigned after three years due to the Church of England's influence over the institution.
  • // 1832
    In 1832, Lyell married Mary Horner, who was also associated with the ‘Geological Society of London’.
  • // 1834
    He was awarded the prestigious ‘Royal Medal’, or ‘Queen's Medal’, in 1834 for his scientific achievements. This medal is awarded every year by the ‘Royal Society’ for important contributions to the advancement of knowledge.
  • // 1838
    In 1838, he published 'Elements of Geology,' which described European fossils and rocks from the most recent to the oldest discovered.
  • // 1841
    Beginning in 1841, he spent a year traveling and lecturing in North America, which included a lecture at the Lowell Institute in Boston that attracted thousands.
  • // 1858
    In 1858, after exhaustive study, he proved that Mt. Etna was built by repeated small volcanic eruptions instead of a single large upheaval as many geologists of the time believed.
  • // 1858
    In 1858, he received the ‘Copley Medal’, which is the highest award of the ‘Royal Society of London’.
  • // 1863
    He published 'Antiquity of Man' in 1863, which discussed proof of the long existence of humans on the earth.
  • // 1866
    In 1866, he was awarded the ‘Wollaston Medal’, a scientific award for geology that is the highest award granted by the ‘Geological Society of London’.
  • // 1866
    He was made a foreign member of the ‘Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences’ in 1866.
  • // 1871
    Lyell was one of the first to donate books to help found the ‘Chicago Public Library’ following the ‘Great Chicago Fire of 1871’.
  • // 22nd Feb 1875
    He died on February 22, 1875 at the age of 77 of natural causes. He was buried in Westminster Abbey.

// Famous Geologists

Charles Lyell's FAQ

  • What is Charles Lyell birthday?

    Charles Lyell was born at 1797-11-14

  • When was Charles Lyell died?

    Charles Lyell was died at 1875-02-22

  • Where was Charles Lyell died?

    Charles Lyell was died in Harley Street

  • Which age was Charles Lyell died?

    Charles Lyell was died at age 77

  • Where is Charles Lyell's birth place?

    Charles Lyell was born in Angus

  • What is Charles Lyell nationalities?

    Charles Lyell's nationalities is British

  • What was Charles Lyell universities?

    Charles Lyell studied at Exeter College, Oxford, King's College London, University of Oxford

  • What is Charles Lyell's sun sign?

    Charles Lyell is Scorpio

  • How famous is Charles Lyell?

    Charles Lyell is famouse as Lawyer