BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

The Map that Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology by Simon Winchester

Map That Changed the WorldEven prison did not stop William Smith from his tenacious decades-long journey to create a map that clearly captured in one colorful creation what was buried under England’s rolling hills and valleys. Prison is where Simon Winchester, a remarkable chronicler of obscure and near-forgotten but terribly important lives (The Meaning of Everything (2003), The Madman and the Professor (1998)), begins the story of Smith who became the father of modern geology.

Born the son of a blacksmith, Smith was literally digging ditches as a young man when he realized that the layout of fossils he encountered was the key to understanding – and mapping – what was under the earth’s surface. Determined to create such a geological survey map of all of England, Smith laboriously traveled the country, literally piecing together the unseen rocks beneath to tell earth’s story.

He was ridiculed by many, suffered great injustices, spent most of his life in extreme poverty and even homelessness, eventually losing his wife to madness brought on by their uncertain existence. In spite of great achievements, he was shunned by the stuffy Geological Society in London whose members equated Smith’s low birth with the worth(-lessness) of his discoveries. Justice was eventually Smith’s – he finally received the first-ever Wollaston medal in 1831, the Geological Society’s premier honor, and today his famous 1815 map, protected by a curtain, hangs in the very London building that tried so hard to shut him out.

Readers: Adult

Published: 2001, 2009 (paperback reprint)


No Comment

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.