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There were various attempts to estimate the Earth's age, working back from sedimentation rates and other geophysical phenomena.The attempts produced estimates from about 100 million years up to several billion years. The first is that the geological history was still being reconstructed.The story of this great change in the conception of the history of Earth is not a simple one.The chronicle of this great change can be broken into five periods; ran from AD 1600-1700.
In short, Genesis was an allegory and not literal history.The physical models were open to question and, in retrospect, were naive. It became quite clear that many areas of the Earth had alternated between being land and being covered by seas, that there had been extensive slow sedimentation, that the mountains had not been created in situ as is but rather had a long history of slow deformation, and that long periods of erosion had shaped the Earth everywhere.By the early 1800's it was generally accepted that the Earth had a long history. The uniformatarians (Hutton 1788, Lyell 1830) pictured the Earth as being indefinitely old.Hutton and Lyell, who held that the history of Earth was dominated by slow relatively uniform changes in an Earth with a static over all history.During the early part of this period there was a considerable amount of activity by runs from AD 1850 to the present.
The selections and comments here are not a complete exposition of the works of the authors mentioned; rather they were chosen to illustrate and exemplify changing perspectives over time.