Deep time is the concept of geologic time first recognized in the late 1700s by James Hutton, the "Father of Geology." Hutton's words, "we find no vestige of a beginning, no prospect of an end," are in stark contrast to creationism (dominant in Hutton's time and both personally and professionally hazardous to oppose) and other creation mythologies which hold that the Earth has existed only a few thousands of years.
Deep time is a pivotal historic scientific concept which was further amplified by Charles Lyell in his Principles of Geology (1830-33), an early copy of which informed the naturalist and evolutionary theorist Charles Darwin's scientific investigations as he studied it exhaustively during the HMS Beagle expedition (1831-1836).
An understanding of geologic history and the concomitant history of life requires a comprehension of deep time which initially may be more than disconcerting. As Hutton's friend and colleague mathematician John Playfair later remarked, upon seeing the strata of the angular unconformity at Siccar Point for the first time with Hutton and James Hall in June, 1788, "the mind seemed to grow giddy by looking so far into the abyss of time." (Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, vol. V, pt. III, 1805 )
The phrase deep time itself may first have been used by John McPhee in his book Basin and Range (1981). This work was also republished, with In Suspect Terrain (1983), Rising From the Plains (1986), Assembling California (1993), and Crossing the Craton (1998), in McPhee's Annals of the Former World (1998): five books in one. McPhee borrowed this title from Hutton's own phrase about the preoccupation of the geologist with the "annals of a former world," the stories figuratively told by the layers of rock laid down over many millions of years.
Deep time is also addressed in physicist Gregory Benford's Deep Time: How Humanity Communicates Across Millennia (1999), and in paleontologist and Nature editor Henry Gee's In Search of Deep Time: Beyond the Fossil Record to a New History of Life (1999)  and Deep Time: Cladistics, the Revolution in Evolution (2000)  .
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