James Hutton

Geologist, chemist, naturalist, founder of modern geology, alumnus.

Hutton plaques


James Hutton was born in Edinburgh in 1726, a time when the prevailing theories about the age of the Earth were more religious than scientific.

Hutton challenged biblical notions that the Earth was only a few thousand years old, instead arguing that for the nature of rock formations to be explained, our planet had to be far more ancient.

His groundbreaking work proposed that the core of our planet is hot, and that this energy drives changes at the surface.

This was in stark contrast to the beliefs of the time, which held that all rocks were deposited by the oceans.

Local inspiration

Hutton's initial inspiration came from a walk on Edinburgh's Salisbury Crags.

In an area now known as Hutton's Section, he saw evidence that the rock formation had come about by the injection of molten magma into older, sedimentary rock.

His findings were published in 1788 in the Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, entitled "Theory of the Earth; or an Investigation of the Laws observable in the Composition, Dissolution, and Restoration of Land upon the Globe".

The plaque

Hutton's plaque is at the main entrance of the Grant Institute.


In honour of James Hutton


Geologist, chemist, naturalist, father of modern geology, alumnus of the University

Related links

Hutton's entry in the Gazetteer for Scotland

Image credit

The image on this page comes from Wellcome Images, a website operated by Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation based in the United Kingdom. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence. 

Wellcome Images

Creative Commons 4.0 licence