James Hutton (1726-1797) was a Scottish farmer who is known for his work on the theory of uniformitarianism. Along with Charles Lyell, he sought to create principles that would make sense of their past observations. They formulated that the Earth was perpetually being formed and the theory states that geologic processes account for the Earth's geological features, and that events from the past can be explained by processes that can be observed today. For example, molten material from volcanoes is forced up into mountains, eroded, and then eroded sediments are washed away today just as they were in the past. As Hutton said, "The present is the key to the past." Uniformitarianism is the foundation of modern geological and archaeological interpretation.
James Hutton: The Founder of Modern Geology http://www.amnh.org/education/resources/rfl/web/essaybooks/earth/p_hutton.html
Manual for Cultural Foundations of Ancient Civilizations compiled by Rosie Beniretto and Clay Elliot