A common historical myth is that Victorian geology was torn between religious traditionalists and secular geologists. In fact long before the Victorian period all accredited geologists (with very few exceptions) agreed that the earth was millions of years old, that strata were layers from different times and the Book of Genesis was either not incompatible with the findings of modern geology or irrelevant to them. For many Victorians geology was the hottest science going. It was new (the Geological Society of London was founded in 1807), its sometime controversial findings were well-attested and respected, and it had a wide amateur following. Geology made obvious the vast age of the earth and the apparent succession of living forms that had inhabited it. Much of Victorian science centred on stratigraphy, mineralogy and palaeontology. The Geological Survey of Great Britain (1835; offsite) was the largest professional scientific organization maintained by Victorian governments.

Online resources

Further reading

Peter J. Bowler. The Norton History of the Environmental Sciences. Norton, 1993.

C.C. Gillispie. Genesis and geology: a study in the relations of scientific thought, natural theology, and social opinion in Great Britain, 1790-1850, Cambridge, 1951.

Gabriel Gohau. A History of Geology. Rutgers, 1990.

Rachel Laudan. From Mineralogy to Geology: The Foundations of a Science, 1650-1830. 1987.

Martin Rudwick. Georges Cuvier, Fossil Bones, and Geological Catastrophes. 1997.

Martin Rudwick. The Great Devonian Controversy. 1985.

Martin Rudwick. The Meaning of Fossils. 1972.

Martin Rudwick. Scenes from Deep Time. 1992.

Nicolaas Rupke. Great chain of history: William Buckland and the English school of geology (1814-1849), Oxford, 1983.

James Secord. 'Introduction', to Charles Lyell, Principles of Geology. Penguin Classics, 1997.

James Secord. Controversy in Victorian Geology: The Cambrian-Silurian Dispute. Princeton, 1986.

Torrens, H. S. The practice of British geology, 1750-1850. 2002.

Zittel, Karl A., von. Geschichte der Geologie und Paläontologie bis Ende des 19. Jahrhundert, 1899.


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Last modified 18 January 2012