In the article attached to this sub-article, I laid out a summary of the history that shows that Charles Lyell had more influence than anyone else regarding the acceptance by the Church of uniformitarianism and millions of years of earth history. But, Lyell did not work in a vacuum. He had been influenced by others who had previously toyed with the idea of deep time instead of the biblical timeline. And, there were contemporaries of Lyell who assisted him with the development of the idea.
I will next outline the major players who preceded Lyell as well as those who assisted in the development of the idea of millions of years as an accepted idea for origins. This will be only an outline and for more details there are two books that I recommend for those who want to dig deeper. The first is The Great Turning Point and the other is The Emperors Who Had No Clothes.
It is important to remember that the dominant scientific view was the biblical view until the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the time of the so-called “Enlightenment.” A chronological listing of the development of the idea of “millions of years” looks like this:
Compte de Buffon (1749-1788) from France. He wrote Epochs of Nature in 1778 and proposed that the earth took 78,000 or more years to cool from a molten blob.
Pierre Laplace (1749-1827) from France. He wrote Exposition of the System of the Universe in 1796 and proposed the Nebular Hypothesis…that a spinning gas cloud formed the solar system.
Jean Lamarck (1744-1829) from France. He developed ideas of biological evolution and was a forerunner to Charles Darwin for this. He originated the idea of “inheritance of acquired characteristics.”
Abraham Werner (1749-1817) from Germany. He was a Mineralogy professor who proposed that the earth’s sediments are the result of slow deposition over millions of years. He paid no attention to the fossils in the sediments.
James Hutton (1726-1797) from England. He was a physician, agriculturist and geologist who wrote Theory of the Earth in 1795. He believed the history of the earth was cyclical with no evidence of a beginning or an end. He paid no attention to fossils.
Georges Cuvier (1769-1832) from France. He was a comparative anatomist and paleontologist who wrote Theory of the Earth in 1812. He believed the earth’s surface was the result of many regional or local catastrophic floods. He did pay attention to the fossils in the sediments.
William Smith (1769-1832) from England. He was a drainage engineer, surveyor and geologist. He is considered by many as the father of English stratigraphy. He used the fossils in the sedimentary layers to give relative dates to the rocks.
Charles Lyell (1797-1875) from England. He was a lawyer and geologist who built his ideas about the history of the earth on those of James Hutton. He published the three-volume book Principles of Geology 1830-33. He is considered as the promoter of the principle of uniformitarianism.
William Buckland (1784-1856) from England. He was an ordained Anglican minister who in the 1830s changed from a catastrophist to a uniformitarian, and had a great influence on the Church in its compromising of the Bible’s historicity.
Adam Sedgwick (1785-1873) from England was an ordained anglican minister who was influenced by Lyell to change from catastophism to uniformitarianism. He too had great influence on the compromising of the Church regarding God’s Word and history.
The deep time theologies of Buffon, Laplace, Lamarck, Werner, Hutton, Cuvier, Smith and Lyell were based in deism and/or atheism. All of these men had many presuppositions and certainly were not unbiased. They believed that nature or matter is all that exists and everything must be explained by time plus chance plus the laws of nature. Due to the ideas of these men and a number of influential compromised church leaders, the influence of Scriptural Geologists such as George Young faded away by the 1850s and much of the Church had capitulated to the idea of millions of years at that time.
Once the idea of millions of years was accepted in intellectual circles around the end of the 19th century, it became in vogue to wonder if there was now a possiblity for the impossible. That is, was there enough time for life to form from inorganic materials and man to evolve from rocks. No matter if it was considered possible or not, deep time now allowed for men to feel good about rejecting the Creator God.