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The Man Who Found Time
The Man Who Found Time
Jack Repcheck is an editor at W. W. Norton & Co., where he publishes the work of leading scientists and economists. He is also the author of Copernicus'secret. He lives with his family in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
In this engaging account of scientific discovery, Repcheck (an acquiring editor at Norton) 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." Hutton, claims Repcheck, was the first to propose that the earth was shaped not by a cataclysmic Great Flood, but rather by "the inexorable forces of wind and rain, tides and storms, volcanoes and earthquakes" over a far longer period than the 6,000 years biblical scholars said was the planet's age. Repcheck frames his narrative around Hutton's theory, weaving together the many historical threads that led to this paradigm shift in the conception of geological history. There aren't many popular histories of science that can hop from a thousand years of Church doctrine about the age of the earth to the story of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Scottish rebellion of 1745 without missing a beat, but Repcheck's comfortable style and enthusiasm for his subject permeate his book. He does a fine job of laying out Hutton's theory in the context of the Scottish Enlightenment as well as its consequences for later thinkers (most notably Darwin). Repcheck's account should appeal to anyone who's curious about intellectual history, geologist or not. (June) FYI: We'll watch as Repcheck dukes it out with Alan Cutler, who claims, in his book The Seashell on the Mountaintop (see p. 59), that his subject, Nicolaus Steno, discovered the science of geology and challenged the 6,000-year-old age of the earth. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
"This is an informative and revealing book." Times Higher Education Supplement"
Part biography and part science history, this first book by an acquiring editor at Norton strives to place an obscure Scottish gentleman farmer beside Copernicus, Galileo, and Darwin as the figures most responsible for separating science from the influence of orthodox religion. Considered the father of modern geology, James Hutton stunned the leading scientists of his time (the 18th-century Scottish Enlightenment) by openly declaring Earth's age as inestimably older than the long-accepted biblical date of October 23, 4004 B.C.E. More important, perhaps, his work so influenced Charles Lyell and Charles Darwin that, as Repcheck argues, Hutton paved the way for subsequent theories of evolution. Repcheck, a science book editor with a social history background, details the social milieu of Hutton's time, blending science with the social factors contributing to Hutton's personality and discoveries. Concentrating on the era in which Hutton lived, he finds a niche among broader works like Martin Gorst's Measuring Eternity, which examines the concept of time from the ancient era to the atomic age, and more technical ones, such as Stephen Jay Gould's Time's Arrow, Time's Cycle, which focuses on the geology. 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.-Andy Wickens, King Cty. Lib. Syst., WA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.