“Uniformitarian Arguments Are Negative Only”: Lyell and Whewell

  • Michelle GericEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Literature, Science and Medicine book series (PLSM)


This chapter has as its focus the geological texts, exploring Charles Lyell’s seminal treatise Principles of Principles (1830–1833), along with the work of the polymath William Whewell. As well as examining the nuances of Lyell’s geology, his methodology approach and his rhetoric, the chapter looks at Whewell’s reception of Principles and specifically at his characterisation of Lyell’s scientific approach as ‘uniformitarian’ in opposition to geological ‘catastrophism’. Whewell’s fascinating writings have received little literary critical attention; here, however, his highly influential work on the philosophy of science is treated alongside Lyell’s geological text in order to analyse the rhetorical strategies employed by both men, as, it is argued, a knowledge of these strategies is vital to the understanding not only of Tennyson’s sophisticated use of geology but also the ideological concerns that shaped geological thinking.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of WestminsterLondonUK

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