Childhood And College

James Hutton was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on June 3, 1726, the son of William Hutton and Sarah

Balfour. William died when James was only three, leaving an inheritance that was sufficient for Sarah to raise James and his three sisters, and to send James to the University of Edinburgh when he was 14 years old. While in college James studied humanities but became interested in chemistry when a professor performed an experiment demonstrating that a single acid could dissolve inferior metals, but that two acids were necessary to dissolve gold.

Despite demonstrating academic potential and natural intellectual curiosity, James began an apprenticeship in a lawyer's office when he was 17 years old, but it was obvious that his interests lay elsewhere. His boss released him from their agreement. Because coursework in medicine offered the best opportunity to learn chemistry, Hutton enrolled in medical school at the University of Edinburgh. After three years he moved to Paris to study anatomy. In 1749 he was awarded a doctor of medicine degree after transferring to Leiden, the Netherlands, but he was not interested in practicing medicine.

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