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The Map That Changed the World William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology cover
  • ISBN: 9780060193614
  • ISBN10: 0060193611

The Map That Changed the World William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology

by Simon Winchester

  • List Price: $26.00
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Edition: 1
  • Publisher: Harpercollins
  • Publish date: 08/01/2001
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Description
In 1793, William Smith, a canal-digger, made a startling discovery that was to turn the science of geology -- and a central plank of established Christian religion -- on its head. He noticed that the rocks he was cutting were arranged in layers -- more importantly, he could see quite clearly that the fossils found in one layer were very different from those found in another layer. And out of that realization came an epiphany: by following the fossils, one could trace a layer of rocks as it dipped and rose and fell -- clear across England, and indeed, across the world.

Obsessed with printing his discovery, by creating a map that would show this hidden underside of England, he spent 20 years travelling the length and breadth of the kingdom by stage coach, studying rock outcroppings and gathering information. In 1815, he published an epochal and remarkably beautiful hand-painted map more than eight feet tall and six feet wide. But four years after this triumphant publication, and with a nymphomaniac wife going steadily mad, Smith ended up in debtors prison, swindled out of his profits.

Luckily, just when it seemed he would be lost to the pages of history forever, King William offered him a lifetime pension, and this quiet genius was finally showered with the honors that he rightly deserved. Here now is his astounding story.

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