Luckily Hutton had a Boswell in the form of John Playfair, a professor of mathematics at the University of Edinburgh and a close friend, who could not only write silken prose but—thanks to many years at Hutton's elbow—actually understood what Hutton was trying to say, most of the time. In 1802, five years after Hutton's death, Playfair produced a simplified exposition of the Huttonian principles, entitled Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory of the Earth. The book was gratefully received by those who took an active interest in geology, which in 1802 was not a large number. That, however, was about to change. And how.
In the winter of 1807, thirteen like-minded souls in London got together at the Freemasons Tavern at Long Acre, in Covent Garden, to form a dining club to be called the Geological Society. The idea was to meet once a month to swap geological notions over a glass or two of Madeira and a convivial dinner.
The price of the meal was set at a deliberately hefty fifteen shillings to discourage those whose qualifications were merely cerebral. It soon became apparent, however, that there was a demand for something more properly institutional, with a permanent headquarters, where people could gather to share and discuss new findings. In barely a decade membership grew to four hundred—still all gentlemen, of course—and the Geological was threatening to eclipse the Royal as the premier scientific society in the country.