This blog provides commentary on interesting geological events occurring around the world in the context of my own work. This work is, broadly, geological fluid dynamics. The events that I highlight here are those that resonate with my professional life and ideas, and my goal is to interpret them in the context of ideas I've developed in my research. The blog does not represent any particular research agenda. It is written on a personal basis and does not seek to represent the University of Illinois, where I am a professor of geology and physics. Enjoy Geology in Motion! I would be glad to be alerted to geologic events of interest to post here! I hope that this blog can provide current event materials that will make geology come alive.

Banner image is by Ludie Cochrane..

Susan Kieffer can be contacted at s1kieffer at gmail.com

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

James Hutton and John Kay

Caricature of James Hutton by
John Kay, about 1787
While in Edinburgh, we came across a bookstore selling all sorts of maps.  We asked the owner if he had any works related to James Hutton, and he said 'no', but wondered if we had ever seen the caricature shown to the left.  Unable to order a copy for us, he xeroxed the famous print of Hutton examining the rocks, and the rocks speaking back to him. How many faces can you see?

John Kay (1742-1826) began his career apprenticed to a barber, but in 1785 his hobby of etching caricatures of local celebrities was well enough received that he abandoned his barber career and opened a small print shop in Parliament Square in Edinburgh, where he fluorished. His works were collected by Hugh Paton and published as a series of six volumes entitled  "A series of original portraits and caricature etchings by the late John Kay." Publication dates were, I think, 1838 and 1842 for the volumes, nearly 50 years after Hutton's death.

The biography of Hutton in Paton's volume is interesting and gives a flavor for how the natural sciences were presented at the time when the sciences were fluorishing.  "Dr. Hutton was an ingenious philosopher, remarkable for the unaffected simplicity of hismanner, and much esteemed by the society in which he moved. In his dress he very much resembled a Quaker, with the exception that he wore a cocked hat." After some abortive attempts at law, medicine, and chemistry, in 1786 he devoted himself to "scientific pursuits" for the rest of his life. His first book was @Considerations on the Nature, Quality, and Distinctions of Coal and Calm," and his next were "Theory of the Earth," and "A Theory of Rain," both published in the first volume of the Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. His Theory of Rain becamse a @subject of controversy, which was conducted with much warmth." He then moved on to more metaphysical subjects, and was writing even on the day of his death in 1797 after an illness of about 5 years. John Playfair (1748 – 1819) popularized Hutton's work with his "Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory of the Earth", published in 1802.

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