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Evolution in Darwin´s Lifetime: Charles Lyell

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Charles Lyell (1797-1875)

Lyell was an English geologist who published in Darwin’s time a treatise called Principles of Geology. He suggested that the Earth has undergone enormous transformations over its history, for long periods. It is the geological forces, like earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions, and erosion, acting one after the other, that produce all the features we see. His book shows an image of the Temple of Serapis in Pozzuoli, Naples. It is what remains of a once lively Roman market but serve as proof of Lyell’s geological theory. There are three marble columns right in the middle, which show a section of about 3 meters long of material that was damaged by repeated floods and eruptions.

When seawater covered the columns, clams called Lithodomes ate some material causing the damage that is visible today. Furthermore, volcanic material produced during one or more eruptions covered them until 1749, when excavations at the site took place. Lyell’s was one of the books that inspired Darwin because it offered a theory for the immensity of time that evolution requires to happen.

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