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Born to humble parents, Smith was also a child of the Industrial Revolution (the year of his birth, 1769, also saw Josiah Wedgwood open his great factory, Etruria, Richard Arkwright create his first water-powered cotton-spinning frame, and James Watt receive the patent for the first condensing steam engine). While working as surveyor in a coal mine, Smith noticed the abrupt changes in the layers of rock as he was lowered into the depths. He came to understand that the different layers--in part as revealed by the fossils they contained--always appeared in the same order, no matter where they were found. He also realized that geology required a three-dimensional approach. Smith spent the next 20 some years traveling throughout Britain, observing the land, gathering data, and chattering away about his theories to those he met along the way, thus acquiring the nickname "Strata Smith." In 1815 he published his masterpiece: an 8.5- by 6-foot, hand-tinted map revealing "A Delineation of the Strata of England and Wales."
Despite this triumph, Smith's road remained more rocky than smooth. Snubbed by the gentlemanly Geological Society, Smith complained that "the theory of geology is in the possession of one class of men, the practice in another." Indeed, some members of the society went further than mere ostracism--they stole Smith's work. These cartographic plagiarists produced their own map, remarkably similar to Smith's, in 1819. Meanwhile the chronically cash-strapped Smith had been forced to sell his prized fossil collection and was eventually consigned to debtor's prison.
In the end, the villains are foiled, our hero restored, and science triumphs. Winchester clearly relishes his happy ending, and his honey-tinged prose ("that most attractively lovable losterlike Paleozoic arthropod known as the trilobite") injects a lot of life into what seems, on the surface, a rather dry tale. Like Smith, however, Winchester delves into the strata beneath the surface and reveals a remarkable world. --Sunny Delaney --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Surely Dr. Winchester is one of the greatest geologic writers alive todat. This book is about the map and the formally uneducated man whose map helped create the science of... Read morePublished 37 minutes ago by One Happy Retiree
This book is what it is. Others are complaining about geologic errors or the historical context being written in as an after thought, but the basic premise and writing are... Read morePublished 15 hours ago by Steven H. Douglas
A great story - really makes me appreciate what I learned in my college geology classes as well as what we already know about the geology of the Earth!Published 9 days ago by cmphilli
This book is about the birth of the science of geology. It takes place in England two hundred years ago. It is not a book that everyone will find interesting. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Wingman
The book is wonderful and altho I'm not finished reading it, I gave it 5 stars already. I have a LOT of reading so I read my non-fictions in fits and starts when I get a chance... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Pat R.