Thomas Burnet

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Thomas Burnet

Thomas Burnet (* around 1635 at Croft-on-Tees near Darlington , † September 27, 1715 ) was an English theologian and theorist on cosmogony .

He graduated from Cambridge University and became chairman of the charterhouse and clergyman at the court of William III . His literary success is based on his Telluris Theoria Sacra , also Sacred Theory of the Earth , which was published first in Latin and later in English - a work that was written without any scientific knowledge of the structure of the earth and, to that extent, primarily a speculative cosmogony represents. However, some of his views, presented in a later work, the Archaeologiae Philosophicae , were so unacceptable to contemporary theologians that Burnet had to give up his post at court.

In Telluri's Theoria Sacra he takes the view that the world was created by God in a beautiful and regular form, but that it changed into its present ugly form during the Flood. Rocks and mountains are the most deformed in this respect. Such a landscape creates a sublime impression.

The Dorsa Burnet on the Earth's moon is named after him.


  • Telluris theoria sacra (London, 1680)
  • Archaeologiae philosophicae sive doctrina antiqua de rerum originibus (London, 1692)
  • De Fide et officiis christianorum (1723)
  • De statu mortuorum et resurgentium (1723)
  • De futurae Judaeorum restoration


This article is largely based on the English and French articles on Burnet as well as on Carsten Cell: Aesthetics of the Sublime. From Longin to Lyotard. Part I. Text , Hagen: 1999. (in the series: Reader der Fernuniversität Hagen , No. 10/1999)

A detailed review of Burnet's Telluris Theoria Sacra can be found in Stephen Jay Gould, The Discovery of Deep Time , 1987 (German 1990).