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There were other estimates but the calculations were hotly disputed because they all were obviously flawed by uncertainties in both the initial assumptions and the data.Unbeknownst to the scientists engaged in this controversy, however, geology was about to be profoundly affected by the same discoveries that revolutionized physics at the turn of the 20th century.Some of the methods have internal checks, so that the data themselves provide good evidence of reliability or lack thereof.
Until the 18th century, this question was principally in the hands of theologians, who based their calculations on biblical chronology.James Hutton, a physician-farmer and one of the founders of the science of geology, wrote in 1788, “The result, therefore, of our present inquiry is, that we find no vestige of a beginning, — no prospect of an end.” Although this may now sound like an overstatement, it nicely expresses the tremendous intellectual leap required when geologic time was finally and forever severed from the artificial limits imposed by the length of the human lifetime.By the mid- to late 1800s, geologists, physicists, and chemists were searching for ways to quantify the age of the Earth.The main point is that the ages of rock formations are rarely based on a single, isolated age measurement.
On the contrary, radiometric ages are verified whenever possible and practical, and are evaluated by considering other relevant data.
They observed that every rock formation, no matter how ancient, appeared to be formed from still older rocks.