Florian Cajori, author of the 1908 article “The Age of the Sun and the Earth,” was a historian of science and, especially, of mathematics, and Ray Lankester, whom he quotes, was a zoologist. The first act consists in a direct attack, led by Lord Kelvin, on the extreme uniformitarianism of those such as Charles Lyell, who regarded the earth as indefinitely old and who, with great foresight (or great naivety, depending on your point of view: see the third installment of the 1900 “The Age of the Earth” article by W. Sollas), assumed that physical processes would eventually be discovered to power the great engine of erosion and uplift.The second act of the drama sees a prolonged attempt by a new generation of geologists to estimate the age of the earth from observational evidence, to come up with an answer that would satisfy the demands of newly dominant evolutionary thinking, and to reconcile this answer with the constraints imposed by thermodynamics.It is a drama consisting of a prologue and three acts, complex characters, and no clear heroes or villains.We, of course, know the final outcome, but we should not let that influence our appreciation of the story as it unfolds.Most notable is William Thomson, ennobled to become Lord Kelvin in 1892, whose theories make up an entire section of this collection.
The first of these referred to the rate of heat loss from the earth and the length of time it would have taken to form its solid crust.
The Kurt Hahn School’s partnership with NYC Outward Bound Schools means that all students will participate in adventure and wilderness courses designed to enhance the development of rigorous academic skills while inspiring character development and critical self-discovery.
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