James Hutton

Hutton is considered to be the founder of modern geology. His 'Theory of the Earth', (presented as a paper to the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1785) showed that the continents are gradually worn away over vast stretches of time to form new continents on the sea floor and that there was 'no vestige of a beginning - no prospect of an end' to the physical history of the earth . The manuscript on the table is probably Hutton's 'Theory of the Earth' and Raeburn has also included geological specimens, including fossils, on the table top.
James Hutton by Sir Henry Raeburn - National Galleries Scotland

James Hutton (1726-1797), was truly a man of the Earth. Founder of modern geology and farmer in the Scottish Borders, he was a hero of the Scottish Enlightenment.

His dramatic claim that the Earth is aeons old was based on painstaking observation that its surface is being continually recycled and regenerated, and that this process is being powered by heat deep within it. His theory liberated science and philosophy from biblical chronology which put the earth at 6000 years old, and was profoundly believed in at the time.

This website is part of the Scottish Borders James Hutton Trail, which celebrates James Hutton and the geological resource of the Scottish Borders. It is an initiative of the Borders Foundation for Rural Sustainability, in partnership with the families who currently farm the land once owned by James Hutton.

Lithographic image - https://blogs.agu.org/magmacumlaude/2014/04/06/edinburgh-arthurs-seat-and-salisbury-crags/

The following are acknowledged with gratitude:

  • National Portrait Gallery of Scotland for the image of James Hutton from the portrait by Henry Raeburn
  • Sir Robert Clerk Bt for use of John Clerk of Eldin's sketches