Adam Sedgwick
Adam Sedgwick was one of the founders of modern geology
Geology is the science comprising the study of solid Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which it evolves. Geology gives insight into the history of the Earth, as it provides the primary evidence for plate tectonics, the evolutionary history of life, and past climates...

. He proposed the Devonian period of the geological timescale. Later, he proposed the Cambrian
The Cambrian is the first geological period of the Paleozoic Era, lasting from Mya ; it is succeeded by the Ordovician. Its subdivisions, and indeed its base, are somewhat in flux. The period was established by Adam Sedgwick, who named it after Cambria, the Latin name for Wales, where Britain's...

 period, based on work which he did on Welsh rock strata.

Though he had guided the young Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.He published his theory...

 in his early study of geology, Sedgwick was an outspoken opponent of Darwin's theory of evolution by means of natural selection
Natural selection
Natural selection is the nonrandom process by which biologic traits become either more or less common in a population as a function of differential reproduction of their bearers. It is a key mechanism of evolution....


Life and career

Sedgwick was born in Dent, Yorkshire, the third child of an Anglican vicar. He was educated at Sedbergh School
Sedbergh School
Sedbergh School is a boarding school in Sedbergh, Cumbria, for boys and girls aged 13 to 18. Nestled in the Howgill Fells, it is known for sporting sides, such as its Rugby Union 1st XV.-Background:...

 and Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. Trinity has more members than any other college in Cambridge or Oxford, with around 700 undergraduates, 430 graduates, and over 170 Fellows...


He studied mathematics and theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

, and obtained his BA (5th Wrangler) from the University of Cambridge
University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge is a public research university located in Cambridge, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest university in both the United Kingdom and the English-speaking world , and the seventh-oldest globally...

 in 1808 and his MA in 1811. His academic mentors at Cambridge were Thomas Jones
Thomas Jones (mathematician)
Thomas Jones was Head Tutor at Trinity College, Cambridge for twenty years and an outstanding teacher of mathematics. He is notable as a mentor of Adam Sedgwick....

 and John Dawson
John Dawson (surgeon)
John Dawson was both a mathematician and surgeon. He was born at Raygill in Garsdale, then in the West Riding of Yorkshire, where "Dawson's Rock" celebrates the site of his early thinking about conic sections...

. He became a Fellow
A fellow in the broadest sense is someone who is an equal or a comrade. The term fellow is also used to describe a person, particularly by those in the upper social classes. It is most often used in an academic context: a fellow is often part of an elite group of learned people who are awarded...

 of Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. Trinity has more members than any other college in Cambridge or Oxford, with around 700 undergraduates, 430 graduates, and over 170 Fellows...

 and Woodwardian Professor of Geology
Woodwardian Professor of Geology
The Woodwardian Professor of Geology is a professorship held in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Cambridge. It was founded by John Woodward in 1728...

 at Cambridge from 1818, holding the chair until his death in 1873.

Sedgwick studied the geology of the British Isles and Europe. He founded the system for the classification of Cambrian rocks and with Roderick Murchison
Roderick Murchison
Sir Roderick Impey Murchison, 1st Baronet KCB DCL FRS FRSE FLS PRGS PBA MRIA was a Scottish geologist who first described and investigated the Silurian system.-Early life and work:...

 worked out the order of the Carboniferous and underlying Devonian strata. These studies were mostly carried out in the 1830s. The investigations into the Devonian meant that Sedgwick was involved with Murchison in a vigorous debate with Henry De la Beche
Henry De la Beche
Sir Henry Thomas De la Beche FRS was an English geologist and palaeontologist who helped pioneer early geological survey methods.-Biography:...

, in what became known as the great Devonian controversy.

Sedgwick investigated the phenomena of metamorphism
Metamorphism is the solid-state recrystallization of pre-existing rocks due to changes in physical and chemical conditions, primarily heat, pressure, and the introduction of chemically active fluids. Mineralogical, chemical and crystallographic changes can occur during this process...

 and concretion
A concretion is a volume of sedimentary rock in which a mineral cement fills the porosity . Concretions are often ovoid or spherical in shape, although irregular shapes also occur. The word 'concretion' is derived from the Latin con meaning 'together' and crescere meaning 'to grow'...

, and was the first to distinguish clearly between stratification
Stratification (archeology)
Stratification is a paramount and base concept in archaeology, especially in the course of excavation. It is largely based on the Law of Superposition...

, jointing, and slaty cleavage
Cleavage (geology)
This article is about rock cleavage, for cleavage in minerals see Cleavage Cleavage, in structural geology and petrology, describes a type of planar rock feature that develops as a result of deformation and metamorphism. The degree of deformation and metamorphism along with rock type determines the...

. He was elected to Fellow of the Royal Society
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

 on 1 February 1821.

Opposition to evolution

The Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

, by no means a fundamentalist or evangelical
Evangelicalism is a Protestant Christian movement which began in Great Britain in the 1730s and gained popularity in the United States during the series of Great Awakenings of the 18th and 19th century.Its key commitments are:...

 church, encloses a wide range of beliefs. During Sedgwick's life there developed something of a chasm between the conservative high church believers and the liberal wing. After simmering for some years, the publication of Essays and Reviews
Essays and Reviews
Essays and Reviews, published in March 1860, is a broad-church volume of seven essays on Christianity. The topics covered the biblical research of the German critics, the evidence for Christianity, religious thought in England, and the cosmology of Genesis....

by liberal churchmen in 1860 pinpointed the differences. In all this, Sedgwick, whose science and faith were intertwined in a natural theology
Natural theology
Natural theology is a branch of theology based on reason and ordinary experience. Thus it is distinguished from revealed theology which is based on scripture and religious experiences of various kinds; and also from transcendental theology, theology from a priori reasoning.Marcus Terentius Varro ...

, was definitely on the conservative side, and extremely outspoken about it. He told an 1831 meeting of the Geological Society of London
Geological Society of London
The Geological Society of London is a learned society based in the United Kingdom with the aim of "investigating the mineral structure of the Earth"...

"No opinion can be heretical, but that which is not true.... Conflicting falsehoods we can comprehend; but truths can never war against each other. I affirm, therefore, that we have nothing to fear from the results of our enquiries, provided they be followed in the laborious but secure road of honest induction. In this way we may rest assured that we shall never arrive at conclusions opposed to any truth, either physical or moral, from whatever source that truth may be derived".

His geological position was catastrophist in the mid 1820s, but following Charles Lyell
Charles Lyell
Sir Charles Lyell, 1st Baronet, Kt FRS was a British lawyer and the foremost geologist of his day. He is best known as the author of Principles of Geology, which popularised James Hutton's concepts of uniformitarianism – the idea that the earth was shaped by slow-moving forces still in operation...

's 1830 publication of uniformitarian
Uniformitarianism (science)
In the philosophy of naturalism, the uniformitarianism assumption is that the same natural laws and processes that operate in the universe now, have always operated in the universe in the past and apply everywhere in the universe. It has included the gradualistic concept that "the present is the...

 ideas he concluded that a worldwide flood was untenable and talked of floods at various dates before recanting his earlier ideas in 1831. He strongly believed that species of organisms originated in a succession of Divine creative acts throughout the long expanse of history. Any form of development that denied a direct creative action smacked as materialistic and amoral. For Sedgwick, moral
A moral is a message conveyed or a lesson to be learned from a story or event. The moral may be left to the hearer, reader or viewer to determine for themselves, or may be explicitly encapsulated in a maxim...

 truths (the obtainment of which separates man from beast) were to be distinguished from physical truths, and to combine these or blur them together could only lead to disastrous consequences. In fact, one's own hope for immortality
Immortality is the ability to live forever. It is unknown whether human physical immortality is an achievable condition. Biological forms have inherent limitations which may or may not be able to be overcome through medical interventions or engineering...

 may ultimately rest on it.

While he became increasingly Evangelical with age, he strongly supported advances in geology against conservative churchmen. At the September 1844 British Association for the Advancement of Science
British Association for the Advancement of Science
frame|right|"The BA" logoThe British Association for the Advancement of Science or the British Science Association, formerly known as the BA, is a learned society with the object of promoting science, directing general attention to scientific matters, and facilitating interaction between...

 meeting at York
York is a walled city, situated at the confluence of the Rivers Ouse and Foss in North Yorkshire, England. The city has a rich heritage and has provided the backdrop to major political events throughout much of its two millennia of existence...

 he achieved national celebrity for his reply defending modern geology against an attack by the Dean of York
Dean of York
The Dean of York is the member of the clergy who is responsible for the running of the York Minster cathedral.-11th–12th centuries:* 1093–c.1135: Hugh* c.1138–1143: William of Sainte-Barbe...

, the Reverend William Cockburn
Sir William Cockburn, 11th Baronet
Sir William Cockburn, 11th Baronet was a Church of England clergyman. He was Dean of York and was famously defended on a charge of simony by his nephew Sir Alexander Cockburn, 12th Baronet in 1841....

, who described it as unscriptural. The entire chapter house of the cathedral refused to sit down with Sedgwick, and he was opposed by conservative papers including The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

, but his courage was hailed by the full spectrum of the liberal press, and the confrontation was a key moment in the battle over relations between Scripture and science.

When Robert Chambers anonymously published his own theory of universal evolutionism
Evolutionism refers to the biological concept of evolution, specifically to a widely held 19th century belief that organisms are intrinsically bound to increase in complexity. The belief was extended to include cultural evolution and social evolution...

 as his "development hypothesis" in the book Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation
Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation
Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation is a unique work of speculative natural history published anonymously in England in 1844. It brought together various ideas of stellar evolution with the progressive transmutation of species in an accessible narrative which tied together numerous...

published in October 1844 to immediate popular success, Sedgwick's many friends urged him to respond. Like other eminent scientists he initially ignored the book, but the subject kept recurring and he then read it carefully and made a withering attack on the book in the July 1845 edition of the Edinburgh Review
Edinburgh Review
The Edinburgh Review, founded in 1802, was one of the most influential British magazines of the 19th century. It ceased publication in 1929. The magazine took its Latin motto judex damnatur ubi nocens absolvitur from Publilius Syrus.In 1984, the Scottish cultural magazine New Edinburgh Review,...

. Vestiges "comes before [its readers] with a bright, polished, and many-coloured surface, and the serpent coils a false philosophy, and asks them to stretch out their hands and pluck the forbidden fruit", he wrote in his review. Accepting the arguments in Vestiges was akin to falling from grace and away from God's favour.

He lashed out at the book in a letter to Charles Lyell, bemoaning the consequences of it conclusions. "...If the book be true, the labours of sober induction are in vain; religion is a lie; human law is a mass of folly, and a base injustice; morality is moonshine; our labours for the black people of Africa were works of madmen; and man and woman are only better beasts!" Later, Sedgwick added a long preface to the 5th edition of his Discourse on the Studies of the University of Cambridge (1850), including a lengthy attack on Vestiges and theories of development in general.

Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.He published his theory...

 was one of his geology students in 1831, and accompanied him on a field trip to Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

 that summer. The two kept up a correspondence while Darwin was on the Beagle expedition
Second voyage of HMS Beagle
The second voyage of HMS Beagle, from 27 December 1831 to 2 October 1836, was the second survey expedition of HMS Beagle, under captain Robert FitzRoy who had taken over command of the ship on its first voyage after her previous captain committed suicide...

, and afterwards. However, Sedgwick never accepted the case for evolution made in On the Origin of Species in 1859 any more than he did that in Vestiges in 1844. In response to receiving and reading Darwin's book, he wrote to Darwin saying:
"If I did not think you a good tempered & truth loving man I should not tell you that... I have read your book with more pain than pleasure. Parts of it I admired greatly; parts I laughed at till my sides were almost sore; other parts I read with absolute sorrow; because I think them utterly false & grievously mischievous — You have deserted—after a start in that tram-road of all solid physical truth—the true method of induction—& started up a machinery as wild I think as Bishop Wilkin's locomotive that was to sail with us to the Moon. Many of your wide conclusions are based upon assumptions which can neither be proved nor disproved. Why then express them in the language & arrangements of philosophical induction?"

Sedgwick regarded natural selection
Natural selection
Natural selection is the nonrandom process by which biologic traits become either more or less common in a population as a function of differential reproduction of their bearers. It is a key mechanism of evolution....

"but a secondary consequence of supposed, or known, primary facts. Development is a better word because more close to the cause of the fact. For you do not deny causation. I call (in the abstract) causation the will of God: & I can prove that He acts for the good of His creatures. He also acts by laws which we can study & comprehend—Acting by law, & under what is called final cause, comprehends, I think, your whole principle".

He emphasized his distinction between the moral and physical aspects of life, "There is a moral or metaphysical part of nature as well as a physical. A man who denies this is deep in the mire of folly". If humanity broke this distinction it "would suffer a damage that might brutalize it—& sink the human race into a lower grade of degradation than any into which it has fallen since its written records tell us of its history".

In a letter to another correspondent, Sedgwick was even harsher on Darwin's book, calling it "utterly false" and writing that "It repudiates all reasoning from final causes; and seems to shut the door on any view (however feeble) of the God of Nature as manifested in His works. From first to last it is a dish of rank materialism cleverly cooked and served up".

Despite this difference of opinion, the two men remained friendly until Sedgwick's death. In contrast to Sedgwick, liberal church members (who included biologists such as George Rolleston
George Rolleston
George Rolleston MA MD FRCP FRS was an English physician and zoologist. He was the first Linacre Professor of Anatomy and Physiology to be appointed at the University of Oxford, a post he held from 1860 until his death in 1881...

, William Henry Flower
William Henry Flower
Sir William Henry Flower KCB FRCS FRS was an English comparative anatomist and surgeon. Flower became a leading authority on mammals, and especially on the primate brain...

 and William Kitchen Parker) were usually comfortable with evolution. Sedgwick's opposition seems linked, not to his religion as such, but to the particular cast of his beliefs.

Sedgwick Prize

In 1865 the University of Cambridge received from A. A. Van Sittart the sum of 500 pounds sterling "for the purpose of encouraging the study of geology among the resident members of the university, and in honour of the Rev. Adam Sedgwick". Thus was founded the Sedgwick Prize to be given every third year for the best essay on some geological subject. The first Sedgwick Prize was awarded in 1873. On the death of Sedgwick it was decided that his memorial should take the form of a new and larger museum. Hitherto the geological collections had been placed in the Woodwardian Museum in Cockerell's Building. Through the energy of Professor T. McK. Hughes (successor to Sedgwick) the new building, termed the Sedgwick Museum
Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences
The Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, opened in 1904, is the geology museum of the University of Cambridge in England. It is part of the Department of Earth Sciences and is located on the University's Downing Site in Downing Street, central Cambridge, England.The Sedgwick has a collection of more...

, was completed and opened in 1903.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.