Excerpt from The Man Who Found Time by Jack Repcheck, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Man Who Found Time

James Hutton and the Discovery of Earth's Antiquity

By Jack Repcheck

The Man Who Found Time
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Hardcover: Apr 2003,
    256 pages.
    Paperback: Jul 2004,
    256 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Since giving the public lectures, Hutton had been remarkably successful in finding convincing proof that extreme subterranean heat was an active agent in the formation of the continents. Although this finding alone was significant, it did not necessarily follow that intense heat had led to the raising of new land above the oceans to replace the eroded land of former regions. Hutton needed to find an exposure of rocks that somehow demonstrated his theorized cycle.

Discovering such an outcrop was the quest of the three sailors as they plied the waters of the North Sea. Hutton had chosen to investigate here because he knew that this part of Scotland had two distinct types of surface rock. What was believed to be the older of the two was a smooth, grayish stone that mineralogists labeled "primary micaceous schistus" (today it is called Silurian graywacke)—a type of shale. The other, younger rock, a coarse reddish stone, Hutton called the "secondary sandstone strata" (today it is called the Upper Old Red Sandstone). The doctor was convinced that the two rock groups represented two separate erosion-sedimentation-uplift cycles, and that at some location the younger rock (the coarse red sandstone) must come in contact with, and actually cover, the older rock (the gray smooth stone). There was a chance that the junction of the two formations would be visible on the coast, thanks to the intense erosion inflicted by the pounding winds and water of the North Sea.

The men could conceivably have avoided using the boat, and the attendant risk of the sea, by hiking along the coast. However, it was so rugged—there were ravines to cross, steep rock faces to climb, and hills to circumnavigate—that it would have taken days to see everything they were hoping to see on this one day. Besides, Hutton was too old to conduct the exploration by land.

After leaving the spot where they boarded the boat, the Dunglass Burn beach, they sailed along a jagged coastline. The mild weather and low tide allowed them to sail near the shore, and the early afternoon sun gave maximum exposure to the cliffs on their right. The rocks were from 50 to 70 feet high, grass and moss covering the tops. The relentless pummeling by the North Sea gave the sharp juttings an ominous, almost clawlike shape.

About a half mile from Dunglass Burn, the boat came to the first headland, Reed Point. The explorers rounded the point but could detect no unusual formations from the boat; all that was visible was the dominant primary schistus. Hutton decided not to land, and the boat continued southward. They had to be extra careful along the next stretch of coast because, in addition to the rugged cliffs, the waves broke against large rocks protruding from the sea.

After several hundred yards, the boat skimmed past the next headland, and the men turned their heads to witness a spectacular scene. Pease Bay dug deeply into the coast and was marked by a beautiful sandy beach stretching from end to end, at least 200 yards long. What was striking was not the beach itself, but the rock formation that emerged from it. Rising out of the sand, like a snake, was a beautiful red sandstone outcrop, which seemed to burst out of the beach at a low 20-degree angle. The red rocks grew to form a 50-foot cliff. The formation was covered with a thin coating of grass and moss, but enough had been "cleaned" by the surf that the strata were clearly visible. These were the secondary strata that Hutton was looking for. Still, as beautiful as this exposure was, it did not contain the combination of rock layers that Hutton hoped to find.

Excerpted from The Man Who Found Time by Jack Repcheck. Copyrighted by Jack Repcheck 2003, all rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher, Perseus Publishing.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    The Valley of Amazement
    by Amy Tan
    "Mirror, Mirror on the wall
    I am my mother after all!"

    In my pre-retirement days as a professor ...
  • Book Jacket: A Man Called Ove
    A Man Called Ove
    by Fredrik Backman
    Reading A Man Called Ove was like having Christmas arrive early. Set in Sweden, this debut novel is ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Search
    by Geoff Dyer
    All hail the independent publisher! In May 2014, Graywolf Press brought two of long-revered British ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

Tomlinson Hill
by Chris Tomlinson

Published Jul. 2014

Join the discussion!

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist


Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.