→ uniformity + -arian.
The doctrine whereby geologic processes (→ erosion, → deposition, → compaction, and → uplift) observed at Earth's surface now are the same that have shaped Earth's landscape over long periods of time in the past. The term uniformitarianism was first used in 1832 by William Whewell, to present an alternative explanation for the origin of the Earth. The prevailing view at that time was that the Earth was created through supernatural means and had been affected by a series of catastrophic events such as the biblical Flood. This theory is called → catastrophism. The ideas behind uniformitarianism originated with the work of Scottish geologist James Hutton. In 1785, Hutton presented at the meetings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh that the Earth had a long history and that this history could be interpreted in terms of processes currently observed. For example, he suggested that deep soil profiles were formed by the weathering of bedrock over thousands of years. He also suggested that supernatural theories were not needed to explain the geologic history of the Earth (PhysicalGeography.net).