- Paperback: 329 pages
- Publisher: Harper Perennial; 1st edition (July 30, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0060931809
- ISBN-13: 978-0060931803
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 243 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,942,828 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Map That Changed the World Paperback – July 30, 2002
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"Winchester brings Smith's struggle to life in clear and beautiful language." (New York Times Book Review)
"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 masterfully weaves a compelling history.” (Newsday)
“Smith’s unsung life provides the perfect backdrop for yet another entertaining intellectual history.” (Denver Post)
"A compelling human story" (Boston Sunday Herald)
"Well-researched narrative" (BusinessWeek)
About the Author
Simon Winchester is the acclaimed author of many books, including The Professor and the Madman, Atlantic, The Man Who Loved China, A Crack in the Edge of the World, and Krakatoa. In 2006, Mr. Winchester was made an officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Her Majesty the Queen. He lives in western Massachusetts.
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I've read several of Winchester's books over the years and find them to be reliably interesting and informative. If you're interested in how science has come to describe the natural world, this book should be on your reading list.
The Map that Changed the World is about William Smith the "Father of Geology" and the Great Map of England's Geology that he created.
We see William as a young man as a surveyor of coal mines and canals in England in the early 19th century as England was getting a great industrialization. He temporarily has a very good income but over stretched his finances, buying a large estate with a large mortgage, renting an expensive apartment, opening up a mine that fails and marrying a woman who develops heath problems and severe mental illnesses. He is fired from his job and tries getting smaller temporary jobs but eventually is thrown in "Debtors Prison". He is financially ruined.
William through the decades learns about the different strata layers of the earth and the different fossils that are in certain layers. He learns the layers represent different ages of the earth and are very, very old.He believes much, much older than anyone thought. He battles people who for religious reasons believe that God created the earth in 1 day and the earth is way less than 10.000 years old. Today by carbon radioactive isotope dating, we know that some of these rock layers are hundreds of millions of years old and older. In William's early 1800th days no one knew this.
Also a rich, snob member of the "Geologist Society" steals William's geology data and plagiarizes his great Map of England's underground Geology. A friend takes financially destroyed William and his wife in. Eventually the snobs in the Geology Society lose their power and William is recognized as the true "Father of Geology and the true creator of the great Map of England's Geology. William is given the ultimate recognition by his peers, the gold Wollaston Medal. Eventually, William gets his true Great colored Map of England's Geology printed and copies sold. He is given an Irish honorary doctorate degree and a $100LB pension from the English government. Finally he has the recognition as the "Father of English Geology and the creator of the Great Colored Large Map of English Geology.
I won't ruin the ending for you. A great ending. Anyone interested in the history of Geology, fossils or map creation will enjoy this book plus you will learn a little about the different Earth layers and where some different kinds of fossils are located in the different layers/ages.
I developed a lot of empathy for William Smith and gave a small cheer when he eventually gets his recognition as "Father of Geology", and the creator of the Great Colored large Map of English Geology a revolutionary breakthrough showing the underground geology layers that changed people's thinking about how the earth rock/layers were formed, the rock layers ages ,and life at differnt ages on earth) and happiness. 5 stars and recommended. Another winner by Simon Winchester!
I listened to the CD version of this book, read by author Simon Winchester. Not only is the narration excellent, but this spared me from stumbling over the geological terms. Not that this is a textbook - you probably won't be able to recite the order of the strata in England after reading/listening, but Winchester was trained as a geologist, so you can trust his technical grasp of the issues, even if you don't particularly care. The book deals with the personal and professional struggles that Smith dealt with to get his work and his theories accepted and rewarded. It was a lifelong struggle, and one not fully recognized until near the end of Smith's life.
Winchester's book lags a bit towards the end, when he describes Smith's gradually reduced circumstances, bankruptcy, and years of vagabond life. These chapters are far less interesting than the intellectual breakthrough he made earlier in his life. Nonetheless, I'd give this book a thumbs up for the light it sheds on an important scientific and intellectual advance.
Seven months later, I reread this review and felt it was too negative--gives the wrong impression. I still give the book four stars as I did previously, but don't know how to fix my own paragraph description so I shall let it stand and supply this supplemental note: It's kind of like watching all the Lord of the Ring movies. They were great but the sheer length is a deterrent from watching them again. In regard to this book, it was great and even the memories of it are still inspirational, but the excessive descriptions are a disincentive for rereading it again. Understand that this is only my preference, if you like or at least don't mind the descriptive passages you will love this book.