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Portrait of Sir Charles Lyell (1797-1875)

Charles Lyell    Portrait in oils of Charles Lyell, by unknown artist, [c.1835] (GSL/POR/9)

Provenance: Purchased by the Society in 1892 for the sum of £1.

Elected a Member of the Geological Society on 19 March 1819 (no.498), served as Secretary between 1823-1826, Foreign Secretary, 1829-1835, and twice as President, 1835-1837 and 1849-1851. Awarded the Wollaston Medal in 1866.

Lyell’s principal of uniformitarianism had a profound effect on geology in the nineteenth century. Referred to as ‘the present is the key to the past’—that geological processes happening now also happened in the distant past—the young Charles Darwin even took a copy of Lyell's 'Principles of Geology' (first published in 1830) with him on the Beagle.

Lyell was knighted in 1848 and created a Baronet in 1864, the same year in which he was elected President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.

Charles Lyell (Fyfe)

The Society holds a number of portraits of Charles Lyell, including this plaster bust by John Graham Lough, 1865. (GSL/POR/32).

Photograph by Alistair Fyfe, 2009.

Another image of Lyell can be found in our painting The British Association at Newcastle.