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Lord Kelvin and the Age of the Earth

Burchfield charts the enormous impact made by Lord Kelvin’s application of thermodynamic laws to the question of the earth’s age and the heated debate his ideas sparked among British Victorian physicists, astronomers, geologists, and biologists.

"Anyone interested in geologic time, and that should include all geologists and a fair smattering of biologists, physicists and chemists, should make Burchfield’s commendable and time-tested volume part of their personal library"—Brent Darymple, Quartely Review of Biology

278 pages | frontispiece | 6.00 x 9.00 | © 1975

Biological Sciences: Paleobiology, Geology, and Paleontology

Earth Sciences: Geology

History of Science

Table of Contents

I. Introduction
Historical Background
Measuring the Age of the Earth
II. Kelvin and the Physics of Time
Preliminary Speculations
Time and Thermodynamics
The Later Arguments
The Age of the Earth and the Laws of Nature
III. Kelvin’s Influence: The Initial Reception
Converts and Opponents
Kelvin, Darwin, and Wallace
The Kelvin-Huxley Debate
IV. The Triumph of Limited Time
Geology and the Measurement of Time
Physics and the Limitation of Time
V. Opposition and Controversy
Growing Discontent
The Challenge
The Loyal Opposition
A Biological Postscript
VI. Radioactivity and the Age of the Earth
Kelvin Overthrown: Radioactive Heating
Radioactive Dating
Geological Reaction
The Expansion of the Time Scale
The Report of the National Research Council
VII. Conclusion

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