How and when was the true age of the Earth determined?

(ORDO NEWS) — Now anyone can find out about the age of the Earth – it has long been known that it is about 4.5 billion years old. But who was the first person to correctly calculate the age of our planet? And how did he do it?

Scientists have been trying for many years to determine the true age of the Earth, and they managed to do this relatively recently. But how?

Our planet is about 4.5 billion years old – scientists were able to finally determine the age of the Earth only in 1953, when the American geochemist Claire Patterson, together with his colleague George Tilton, developed a method for measuring the age of igneous rocks using uranium-lead and lead-lead methods. Up to this point, researchers have greatly underestimated the age of the planet.


In ancient times, the question of the age of the Earth was not considered scientific, since Christian theologians and natural philosophers calculated the moment of the formation of the planet according to the biblical Book of Genesis. And according to her, the Earth was about a few thousand years old.

XVIII-XIX centuries

The first scientific statements regarding the age of the Earth belong to the French diplomat of the 18th century, Benoit de Maye. On his own, he received some geological data, after which he reasoned that the age of the planet is approximately 2.4 billion years. In comparison with the results of other scientists, this figure was quite close to reality.

How and when was the true age of the Earth determined 2

As for the aforementioned other researchers involved in the study of the age of the Earth, their assumptions were quite far from the truth.

So the British physicist William Thompson (Lord Kelvin) in 1868 published a mathematical model of the cooling of the Earth developed by him, which showed that the planet at that time was from 20 to 400 million years old. Pretty big range.

Around the same time, the English geologist John Phillips published his results. He studied sedimentary rocks and, based on his analysis, offered the public a new figure – 96 million years; about the same age astronomers attributed to the Sun.

Subsequently, Kelvin was criticized by the Irish mathematician and engineer John Perry, stating that, in his opinion, the Earth is 4 billion years old – as it turned out, this was the closest value to reality. But only the discovery at the beginning of the 20th century of the method of radioisotope dating could put an end to the dispute between scientists.

Discovery of radioisotope dating

With the help of the new method, the researchers were able to more accurately determine the age of the rocks. They took samples that contained a radioactive isotope and then looked at how much of it had decayed. From this value, knowing the half-life of a particular isotope, one can calculate the age of the sample.

However, the most accurate results, which are still considered relevant, were obtained a little later, when Claire Patterson, in collaboration with George Tilton , in 1948 began to develop new methods of radioisotope dating – uranium-lead and lead-lead methods.

A few years later, they managed to take samples of the Canyon Diablo meteorite, due to which scientists got the most accurate age of the Earth at that time – 4.5 billion years. The estimate was then refined to 4.55 billion years (plus or minus 70 million years).


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