Love of the Physical World: Rocks as Natural History


This painting of a rock portrays even nonliving nature as individualistic, as part of natural history. The rock has attained an identity and a character by enduring over time. The cracks, even its very shape, are memories of its past. The recognition of its past implies a future with still more change to come.

Our ability to think in these terms comes out of uniforminatarian geology, developed by Hutton. According to this view, nature changes slowly and minutely in accordance with physical and chemical principles.

Nature is no longer just dead matter. Instead, it is something identifiable and potentially unique.

Frederic Edwin Church, Study of a Rock, c. 1845, Cooper-Hewitt Museum of Design