An essential contributor in writing the geological history of the Great Lakes region was renowned British geologist Charles Lyell. His travels across eastern North America between 1841 and 1853 adduced evidence to support his Huttonian view of geology that regarded earth as a self- maintaining perpetual system. Through collaboration with imminent nineteenth-century American geologists, such as Benjamin Silliman, James Hall, and Thomas Roy, Lyell furthered knowledge of the North American chapter of earth history by applying his uniformitarian theories to his field observations. Niagara Falls was of utmost importance in helping Lyell to unravel the geological past of the continent. His field research in the Great Lakes region gave Lyell a model for estimating vast amounts of time in the formation of the continent. It also gave support to validate his theories of elevation and subsidence, and glacial drift.
Accounts of this extraordinary time in American geology have an elusive question as to the extent that Lyell helped shape theories of the formation of the eastern continent? In Principles of Geology (1830), Lyell suggested several theories of continental formation based on his causal geological style. Lyell contended that geologists find truth by suggesting views that, although often imperfect, were capable of improvement. His travels through North America helped him to improve those earlier theories. By examining the revisions and inclusion of evidence from North America in the ninth edition (1853), this essay explores the question of Lyell’s influence on American geology. His keen observation and commitment to correlating current geological processes with those of the past demonstrated the vital importance of the Great Lakes in the formation of North America.