Sir Charles, 1797, 1875, brit. Geologe; wurde durch sein »Prinzip des Aktualismus« zum Mitbegr. der modernen Geologie.
(1797-1875) Scottish geologist. In his Principles of Geology 1830–33, he opposed the French anatomist Georges Cuvier’s theory that the features of the Earth were formed by a series of catastrophes, and expounded the Scottish geologist James Hutton’s view, known as uniformitarianism, that past events were brought about by the same processes that occur today—a view that influenced Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.
Lyell suggested that the Earth was as much as 240 million years old (in contrast to the 6,000 years of prevalent contemporary theory), and provided the first detailed description of the Tertiary period, dividing it into the Eocene, Miocene, and older and younger Pliocene periods. Darwin simply applied Lyell's geological method—explaining the past through what is observable in the present—to biology.
Lyell was born in Forfarshire. He studied at Oxford, becoming a lawyer, but retired from his law practice 1827 and devoted himself full time to geology and writing. In 1831 he became professor of geology at King's College, London.
Lyell arrived independently at the same theories as Hutton, and organized them into a popular and coherent form.