To see a World in a Grain of Sand – The Origin of Ideas

Charli Mills has challenged her fellow bloggers to write about erosion (details here). I have cheated slightly and written two separate, but linked, stories.

He looked at the strange pattern on the rock that had fallen from the cliff, then bent to make notes.
Hours later he returned to his wife, “I’m sorry I was so long.”
“I married you for better or worse, if the worse is you geologising whist I paint, I don’t mind. What did you find?”
“More evidence,” he pulled out his notebook. “Ripples, fossilised in rock. Which shows that sand, washed down into the sea has been compressed into rock, then lifted up and eroded yet again.”
“What does that mean?”
“That the earth is old, immeasurably old.”

It was on his honeymoon in the Mediterranean that Sir Charles Lyell found the final evidence he needed, that the earth was incredibly old. His book The Principles of Geology, was very controversial.

“What do you think?”
“Well written, it’s full of interesting material, but his conclusions.”
“They will certainly provoke argument, they strike at centuries of study.”
“What will you do?”
“Nothing, for now, the matter will be fully discussed at the next meeting of the British Association.”
The professor paused, smiled and added.
“I am sending a copy to Charles, it is perfect reading for a long sea voyage.”
“Are you sure? He’s young and impressionable.”
“Oh I will advise him to learn from the observations and ignore the conclusions.”
It reached the Beagle just before she sailed, and then?

Professor Adam Sedgewick, who profoundly disagreed with Lyell, recognised the importance of his book and sent a copy to his student Charles Darwin just as he was about to set sail on HMS Beagle, with the advice I mentioned. Darwin ignored the advice, and later acknowledged that The Principles of Geology was the inspiration for On the Origin of Species.


Filed under Historical tales, Victorian

11 responses to “To see a World in a Grain of Sand – The Origin of Ideas

  1. Excellent, entertaining and interesting . x


  2. Nicely linked. And as ever believable and fascibating


  3. Autism Mom

    Siblings have to correct spelling and grammar – it is in the contract.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I enjoyed both your stories immensely and even more so for the facts supplied.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Great pair of stories that demonstrate how ideas both influence and erode, especially in disciplines, such as science. Even today, new ideas build on foundations of older ideas only to crumple to new studies.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Pingback: Erosion « Carrot Ranch Communications

  7. What a fascinating piece of history. It is stories such as these that bring history to life. Thanks for the information and the entertainment.

    Liked by 1 person

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