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Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory of - PLAYFAIR, John - 1802. [1273278]
[Neill & Co. for] Caddell and Davies; William Creech, Edinburgh 1802 - First edition, a beautiful copy in contemporary binding, of ?one of the most conspicuous landmarks in the progress of British geology? (DSB). ?Of this great classic it is impossible to speak too highly. For precision of statement and felicity of language it has no superior in English scientific literature.? (Evans). Very rare in such fine condition.❦Grolier, One Hundred Books Famous in Science 52b; Evans, Epochal Achievements in the History of Science 66; Norman 1717; Parkinson, Breakthroughs 241; PMM 247n.Playfair (1748-1819) was Professor of Mathematics at Edinburgh from 1785 to 1805. In 1795 he published an important edition of Euclid, containing an original formulation of the fifth postulate. ?Playfair?s fame as a scientist, however, rests almost entirely on his work in geology ?hardly a ?professional? study at the time ? in presenting Hutton?s momentous theory in a clear and palatable form (which Hutton himself had failed to do), and in adding materially to the geological knowledge of the time? (DSB). ?Playfair?s exposition and development of James Hutton?s Uniformitarian theory of the earth was largely responsible for the theory?s acceptance. Playfair believed Hutton?s theory to bea qualitative revolution in thought ? the geologic equivalent of Newton?s Principia ? but felt that its scientific principles were too much obscured by Hutton?s difficult prose and preoccupation with natural theology. Divorcing Hutton?s science from his religious ideas, Playfair presented the essential elements of Uniformitarianism in a clear, elegant and readable manner, reinforcing them with many original observations and reflections of his own. He recognized the importance of unconformity (lack of continuity between strata in contact) as a manifestation of the geological cycle, a concept at the heart of Hutton?s theory. He provided many descriptions of unconformities in England and Scotland, and made several important miscellaneous observations as well. Playfair also gave many terms their modern geological meaning, and introduced important new phrases, such as ?geological cycle,? into scientific literature? (Norman). ?The world is so complex, and the skills needed to apprehend it so varied, that even the greatest of intellects often needs a partner to supply an absent skill ? James Hutton, whose Theory of the Earth (1795) marks the conventional discovery of deep time in British Geological thought, might have occupied but a footnote to history if his unreadable treatise had not been epitomized by his friend, and brilliant prose stylist, John Playfair, in Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory of the Earth (1802)? (Gould, Time?s Arrow, Time?s Cycle, p. 61).?Hutton?s theory ? postulated a cyclical history of the earth in four stages, consisting of erosion, deposition of the eroded land as strata at the bottom of the ocean, compression of the strata under the heat which lies beneath the earth?s crust, and the fracturing and re-emersion of the fused sediments to form new continents. The revolutionary nature of Hutton?s system lay in its cyclical view of geologic processes, in its rejection of the catastrophic view of the processes of geological evolution, and in its focus on the materials of the earth itself as adequate testimony to a continuous and uniform process of change? (DSB, under Hutton). Hutton?s theory was first made public at two meetings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, early in 1785, and first appeared in print in condensed form as a thirty-page pamphlet entitled Abstract of a Dissertation ? Concerning the System of the Earth, which Hutton circulated privately in 1785. The society published Hutton?s theory in full in ?Though Playfair had probably met Hutton by 1769 (both were then in Edinburgh, enjoying the same friends) and had presumably developed some kind of rapport by 1781, the most meaningful part of their association took place during the last decade of Hutton?s life. We know, for example, that Playfair had not been pr [Attributes: First Edition]
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Last Found On: 2016-11-26           Check availability:      AbeBooks    

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