Physics 335, Lecture 1 / slide 01-18

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The age of the Earth was a multi-disciplinary argument that raged throughout the 19th century.  Charles Darwin, reasoning from the minimum time it would take his theory of evolution to work, thought the Earth was probably 300 million years old.  He was supported by geologists, who felt that certain features of the Earth's surface could only have been created by hundreds of millions of years of erosion.  Darwin was most famously opposed by William Thompson (Lord Kelvin), who did not believe in evolution and who used thermodynamic arguments to prove that the Sun would be too cold to shine, and the Earth too cold to support volcanoes or hot springs, if they were more than about 18 million years old.