Modern geology began with James Hutton, who looked to the ground rather than holy writ for clues about the age of our planet. He flourished during the Scottish enlightenment, which also saw the rise of his friends David Hume and Adam Smith; at that time, biblical scholarship's estimate of a 6,000-year-old Earth was widely accepted. How this number was derived-- it made sense even to Isaac Newton--is part of the interesting background material in this biography of Hutton, which also digresses into the politics of Hutton's Edinburgh in 1745, when Bonnie Prince Charlie arrived in town to raise the Stuart standard.
Not much is known about Hutton, which is why Repcheck elaborates on these settings, for just a few letters and geological writings, as well as an admirer's memoir, exist to indicate what manner of man he was. Repcheck makes the most of the material, incorporating into Hutton's haunts and jaunts in Scotland the then-orthodox theories of Noah's flood, which he found wanting. Fluidly informative, Repcheck will easily snare readers of popular science.