Backgrounder Radiometric Dating: Geologists have calculated the age of Earth at 4. Even the Greeks and Romans realized that layers of sediment in rock signified old age. But it wasn't until the late s -- when Scottish geologist James Hutton, who observed sediments building up on the landscape, set out to show that rocks were time clocks -- that serious scientific interest in geological age began.
Before then, the Bible had provided the only estimate for the age of the world: about 6, years, with Genesis as the history book. The age of the planet, though, was important to Charles Darwin and old age dating evolutionary theorists: The biological evidence they were collecting showed that nature needed vastly more time than previously thought to sculpt the world. By measuring the ratio of lead to uranium in a rock sample, its age can be determined.
Using this technique, called radiometric dating, scientists are able to "see" back in time.
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