Summary and book reviews of The Man Who Found Time by Jack Repcheck

The Man Who Found Time

James Hutton and the Discovery of Earth's Antiquity

by Jack Repcheck

The Man Who Found Time
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2003, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2004, 256 pages

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Book Summary

A marvelous narrative about a little-known man and the science he founded, which sparked Darwin's theory of evolution - helping to free science from the straitjacket of religious orthodoxy.

There are three men whose contributions helped free science from the straitjacket of theology. Two of the three - Nicolaus Copernicus and Charles Darwin - are widely known and heralded for their breakthroughs. The third, James Hutton, never received the same recognition, yet he profoundly changed our understanding of the earth and its dynamic forces. Hutton proved that the earth was likely millions of years old rather than the biblically determined six thousand, and that it was continuously being shaped and re-shaped by myriad everyday forces rather than one cataclysmic event.

In this expertly crafted narrative, Jack Repcheck tells the remarkable story of this Scottish gentleman farmer and how his simple observations on his small tract of land led him to a theory that was in direct confrontation with the Bible and that also provided the scientific proof that would spark Darwin's theory of evolution. It is also the story of Scotland and the Scottish Enlightenment, which brought together some of the greatest thinkers of the age, from David Hume and Adam Smith to James Watt and Erasmus Darwin. Finally, it is a story about the power of the written word. Repcheck argues that Hutton's work was lost to history because he could not describe his findings in graceful and readable prose. (Unlike Darwin's Origin of the Species, Hutton's one and only book was impenetrable.)

A marvelous narrative about a little-known man and the science he founded, The Man Who Found Time is also a parable about the power of books to shape the history of ideas.

Looking So Far Into the Abyss of Time

On a sunny June afternoon in 1788, three gentlemen from Edinburgh, along with several farmhands, boarded a boat on a desolate Scottish beach. After clearing the waves, they began sailing south along the North Sea coast. The men were in search of a rock exposure on the battered cliffs that would prove one of the most stunning claims in the history of science—that the earth was ancient beyond calculation. In the late eighteenth century, as in all centuries since the formation of the Christian church, this was a blasphemous statement. The Scottish Presbyterian Church, the English Anglican Church, the Lutheran Church, and the Catholic Church—indeed, all Christian churches, their clergies, and their followers—believed that the earth was not even 6,000 years old. This belief was a tenet based on rigorous analysis of the Bible and other holy scriptures. ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In this engaging account of scientific discovery, Repcheck aims to elevate the little-known Scottish geologist James Hutton (1726-1797) into the lofty company of Copernicus, Galileo and Darwin, as one who wrested modern science from the straight jacket of religious orthodoxy.

Kirkus Reviews

Engaging...A welcome contribution to the history of science, one that merits shelving alongside Stephen Jay Gould and John McPhee.

Library Journal - Andy Wickens

Engaging and suspenseful, Repcheck's excellent biography is highly recommended for most public libraries as the most recent and most detailed account of Hutton's life and science.

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