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James Hutton
Hutton James portrait Raeburn.jpg
Hutton as painted by Sir Henry Raeburn
Born 14 June 1726
Died 26 March 1797
Citizenship British
Known for Plutonism; Deep time
Scientific career
Fields Geology

James Hutton(3 June 1726 – 26 March 1797) was a Scottish geologist, physician, chemical manufacturer, naturalist, and experimental agriculturalist. He originated the theory of uniformitarianism—a fundamental principle of geology—that explains the features of the Earth's crust by means of natural processes over geologic time. Hutton's work established geology as a science, and as a result he is referred to as the "Father of Modern Geology".

Hutton trained in medicine, but never practised it. Instead, he did scientific research, helped to start a chemical industry, and farmed his estate. He is one of the founders of modern geology. He saw the Earth as the product of natural forces. Through observation and carefully reasoned geological arguments, Hutton came to believe that the Earth was perpetually being formed; he recognised that the history of Earth could be determined by understanding how processes such as erosion and sedimentation work in the present day.

Hutton hit on a variety of ideas to explain the rock strata he saw around him. After some 25 years of work, his Theory of the Earth was read to meetings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1785. The books and works he published had widespread influence, not least on the up and coming young geologist Charles Darwin.

It was not merely the earth to which Hutton directed his attention. He had long studied the changes of the atmosphere. The same volume in which his Theory of the Earth appeared contained also a Theory of Rain. He investigated the available data regarding rainfall and climate in different regions of the globe, and came to the conclusion that the rainfall is regulated by the humidity of the air on the one hand, and mixing of different air currents in the higher atmosphere on the other.

Later life and death

From 1791 Hutton fell ill and gave up field work to concentrate on finishing his books. An operation failed to resolve his illness. He died in Edinburgh and was buried in the now sealed south-west section of Greyfriars Kirkyard commonly known as the Covenanter's Prison.

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