The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.

VIII. The Literature of Science

§ 39. James Hutton

Modern geology, in Great Britain, might be said to begin with James Hutton, who, after taking the degree of doctor of medicine at Leyden, devoted himself to the cultivation of a small estate, inherited from his father, and to practical chemistry. The lucrative results of the latter employment enabled him to give himself up wholly to scientific pursuits. His agricultural studies, especially during his residence with a farmer in Norfolk, interested him in the various sediments deposited either by rivers or seas, and he recognised that much of the present land had once been below the sea. But he also investigated the movements of strata and the origin of igneous rocks, and especially the nature and relations of granite. The great and distinctive feature of Hutton’s work in geology is the strictly inductive method applied throughout. He maintained “that the great masses of the earth are the same everywhere.” He “saw no occasion to have recourse to the agency of any preternatural cause in explaining what actually occurs,” and he remarks that, “the result therefore of our present enquiry is, that we find no vestige of a beginning—no prospect of an end.”