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From the author of the bestselling The Professor and the Madman comes the fascinating story of the father of modern geology
In 1793, William Smith, the orphan son of a village blacksmith, made a startling discovery that was to turn the science of geology on its head. While surveying the route for a canal near Bath, he noticed that the fossils found in one layer of the rocks he was excavating were very different from those found in another. And out of that realization came an epiphany: that by following these fossils one could trace layers of rocks as they dipped, rose and fell -- clear across England and clear across the world.
Obsessed with creating a map that would showcase his discovery, Smith spent the next twenty years traveling England alone, studying rock outcroppings and gathering information. In 1815 he published a hand-painted map more than eight feet tall and six feet wide. But four years later, swindled out of his profits, Smith ended up in debtors' prison. His wife went mad. He lived as a homeless man for ten long years.
Eventually a kindly aristocrat discovered him; Smith, the quiet genius and 'father of geology' was brought back to London and showered with the honors that he rightly deserved. Here now is his astounding story.
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Simon Winchester has a very simple formula, of which The Map That Changed the World is a perfect example--namely that the history we have forgotten is infinitely more interesting than the history with which we are all familiar. After the success of The Surgeon of Crowthorne, which documented the life of WC Minor, the American surgeon and major contributor to the first Oxford English Dictionary, Winchester now turns his attention to William Smith, the 19th-century Briton who can justly lay claim to being the founding father of geology.
The book has all the usual attributes of a pacy historical read: a self-educated, unrecognised scientist spends years roaming the British countryside, compiling a map of the geological layers beneath the surface, only to have his ideas ripped off and to wind up homeless and penniless in Yorkshire with a wife who is going bonkers. And it gets better: in a bizarre Dickensian twist, Smith finally gets his just accolades when he is recognised by a kindly liberal nobleman and is reintroduced to London society as the geologist par excellence. Of itself, the story would be more than enough recommendation but there is a subtext running though the book that is in many ways just as compelling--namely, how some parts of history get written in stone and others in dust. Most secondary-school students get to learn of Charles Darwin and The Voyage of the Beagle. Yet how many people could stick their hands up and say they had heard of Smith? But is evolution any more important a field as geology? Is history ultimately an exercise in who has the best PR? Winchester may not have the answer, but he'll certainly make you think.--John CraceReview:
"A compelling human story" -- Boston Sunday Herald
"Well-researched narrative" -- BusinessWeek
"Winchester has once again captured the essence of persistence against odds resulting in achievement."--Library Journal (starred review)
"Smith's life provides a terrific plot to frame his contribution to science. Winchester's wonderful account does credit to it."--Publishers Weekly (*Starred Review*)
"Winchester brings Smith's struggle to life in clear and beautiful language."--New York Times Book Review
"A compelling human story"--Boston Sunday Herald
"Smith's unsung life provides the perfect backdrop for yet another entertaining intellectual history."--Denver Post
"Winchester masterfully weaves a compelling history."--Newsday
Winchester masterfully weaves a compelling history. --Newsday"
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Book Description HarperAudio, 2001. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0694525219
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