The hypothesis revered during the 17th century stating a series of immense, brief, world-wide disasters such as floods, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions changed the Earth's crust greatly and can account for the development of mountains, valleys, and other features of the Earth. Believers of catastrophism also believed that the Earth was only a few thousand years old, a number determined by Bishop Ussher in the 15th century.

By the 1830's, James Hutton's Uniformitarianism theory prevailed over this hypothesis.