This is a picture taken at Siccar Point, one of the most important sites in the history of geology. James Hutton, father of modern geology came here in 1788 with Sir James Hall and John Playfair, professor of Mathematics at the Univeristy of Edinburgh and Hutton's biographer. Hutton recognized that the oldest rocks (those under my feet), which he called the "primary rocks" had been laid down horizontally on the bottom of an ancient ocean. They had then been folded and raised up and then eroded off in an unconformity (under my left knee). We call this "Hutton's Unconformity." This entire sequence had then been resubmerged and the Devonian Old Red Sandstone (the red rocks behind me), which Hutton called the "secondary rocks," had then been laid down on the bottom of another ancient ocean. Finally the entire seguence has now been raised up and is being eroded off flat by the waves today. Hutton realized that this all must have taken a very long time, certainly more than the 6,000 years calculated by Archbishop James Ussher (Annals of the World, 1650). On the basis of this and other evidence, mostly from Scotland, Hutton proposed the idea of "Deep Time," that the earth, and the universe are very old. This was a remarkable contribution which, among other things, gave Charles Darwin (who received it through Charles Lyell) the time for evolution to work its magic.
My interest in the geology of the British Isles, and particuarly Scotland and Ireland was first stimulated by the most remarkable man I have ever known, Dr. Donald McIntyre. Donald was Professor and Chairman of Geology at Pomona College when I was an undergraduate there. He inspired my love for applied mathematics and computing--which was the basis for my career in oceanography, as well as a love for the rocks of Scotland. Often when I would sign off in the British Isles, I would visit Donald, Ann, and Ewen. When I was lucky, Donald and I would visit some of the famous sites in the area--like Siccar Point--and I was able to see the rocks and hear from Donald at the same time.