Box icon Sir Charles Lyell (1797-1875)

Father of modern geology

Portrait of Sir Charles Lyell

Sir Charles Lyell's 'Principles of Geology' (1830-1833) was one of the most influential 19th century science books. It argued that the world had not been shaped by catastrophes and supernatural events, but by countless and continuing small changes, like erosion and earthquakes, over vast periods of time.

The 12th edition of 'Principles' appeared shortly after Lyell's death. Each edition had been significantly revised in light of the current scientific research and debate. 'Principles' has influenced many people including Charles Darwin who read it during his round the world voyage on the Beagle. Lyell and Darwin became close friends and Lyell was to play a key role in getting Darwin's 'On the Origin of the Species' published.

All Lyell's other principal works were published by John Murray III, including his last major work 'Geological evidences of the antiquity of man; with remarks on theories of the origin of species by variation' (1863). In this, Lyell supported Darwin's theories, but did not fully endorse them, much to Darwin's disappointment.

Highlighted items from the archive




NRA Name: Lyell, Sir Charles (1797-1875), 1st Baronet, geologist.

The National Register of Archives (NRA) contains information on the nature and location of manuscripts and historical records that relate to British history in archival holdings in the UK and overseas. You can find more information on the National Register of Archives name authority catalogue.


Top of page


Topics in the archive



Other Murray authors in science:


'I always feel as if my books came half out of Lyell's brains & that I never acknowledge this sufficiently.'
– Letter from Charles Darwin to Leonard Horner, 29 August 1844.


Location where Sir Charles Lyell lived and worked:
Map of Britain showing notable locations
View other notable JMA locations in Google Maps