James Hutton published the first two volumes of The Theory of the Earth in 1795 and the third volume was published posthumously by the Geological Society in 1899. Charles Lyell in his four addresses (1836, 1837, 1850, 1851) to the Society put the uniformitarian paradigm of Hutton (the present is the key to the past) into the perspective of his era. Uniformitarianism today can be expressed in the view that plate tectonics is the key to the past. This paper summarizes key data and ideas which confirm that the plate tectonic paradigm can be applied convincingly back to the beginning of the geological record. In spite of the fact that heat production was greater in the early Precambrian than now, tectonophysical and geochemical processes that produced oceanic and continental rocks since the early Archaean have not been fundamentally different from those that operate today.