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He was one of the dominant physicists of his time, the Age of Steam.
His achievements ran from helping formulate the laws of thermodynamics to advising on the first transatlantic telegraph cable. Shelton was a philosopher of science, critical (as shown in his contribution, the 1915 article “Sea-Salt and Geologic Time”) of loose thinking and a defender of evolution in debates.
Lord Kelvin and his allies used three kinds of argument.
In the 1660s Nicolas Steno formulated our modern concepts of deposition of horizontal strata.
He inferred that where the layers are not horizontal, they must have been tilted since their deposition and noted that different strata contain different kinds of fossil.
The Talmudic rabbis, Martin Luther and others used the biblical account to extrapolate back from known history and came up with rather similar estimates for when the earth came into being.
The most famous came in 1654, when Archbishop James Ussher of Ireland offered the date of 4004 B. Within decades observation began overtaking such thinking.
By 1788 Hutton had formulated a theory of cyclic deposition and uplift, with the earth indefinitely old, showing “no vestige of a beginning—no prospect of an end.” Hutton considered the present to be the key to the past, with geologic processes driven by the same forces as those we can see at work today.