The man who made the wedge: James Hutton and the overthrow of biblical authority

Review of
The Man Who Found Time:
James Hutton and the Discovery of the Earth’s Antiquity

by Jack Repcheck
Perseus Publishing, Cambridge, MA, 2003

by Tas Walker

This biography paints James Hutton’s life in stunning detail against the background of his Scottish culture. Most people today have not heard of Hutton, but scientists call him ‘the father of modern geology’. Repcheck ranks him as one of the four outstanding pioneers of science in the last 500 years whose concepts have revolutionized Western thinking.

The other three are Copernicus, Galileo and Darwin—all household names. Hutton never achieved the same recognition, yet his ideas profoundly changed the way modern people look at the world. Like a wedge, his ideas have split the connection between science and its Christian foundation.

The details of Hutton’s life are engrossing. So is Repcheck’s tour of 17th century Edinburgh. I enjoyed reading about the political turmoil, the armies, the battles and the intellectual environment of the time.

By including personal anecdotes, Repcheck warms our hearts. His style is so arresting and the atmosphere so enticing that we can unwittingly drop our guard and accept Hutton’s ideas without rigorously assessing them. However, science should not be about feelings, but about logical arguments….

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