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The dynamics changed dramatically when (Antoine-) Henri Becquerel (1852–1908) discovered radioactivity in 1896.
Heat generated by the radioactive decay of elements within the earth was quickly invoked to explain cooling of the earth over long ages.
That’s why every age result is always tentative, just waiting for a new finding to knock it over, as Lewis illustrates again and again.
Holmes was just 21 when he published his first uranium-lead result for a rock from Norway ().
The numbers quoted for the age of the earth (or the age of the dinosaurs or the age of a volcano) are the outworking of personal beliefs, made to look authoritative by much technical equipment and complicated calculations. For a start, it agreed with similar calculations of the age of the sun by Hermann von Helmholtz (1821–1894).
Thus, radioactivity allowed a different history for the earth to be proposed, one that could extend ‘for as long as geologists and biologists might need’ (p. It is widely paraded that the discovery of radioactivity solved the heat problem but that is not so.
Empirical evidence still favours the view that the earth is much younger than presently believed.
The evolutionary biologists such as Charles Darwin and T. Darwin was particularly dissatisfied, describing Kelvin as his ‘sorest trouble’ (p. He refers to Lord Kelvin as an “odious spectre”, and in a letter [of 1869] …
he writes: “Notwithstanding your excellent remarks on the work which can be effected within a million years, I am greatly troubled at the short duration of the world according to Sir W.