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

If the name "Simon Winchester" sounds familiar, it is probably because of his recent bestseller, "The Professor and the Madman", the history of how the Oxford English Dictionary was originally compiled. It is supposed to be very good, but I haven't had a chance to read it myself yet. However, my experience with "The Map..." strongly inclines me toward reading that other one as well. Mr. Winchester does an excellent job of bringing to life not only the obsession of William Smith to publish a lifetime of work in the first geological map of England, but also the milieu in which he worked. Perhaps Winchester slightly exaggerates the singularity of his main character, and gives him a bit more credit than he deserves, for putting together ideas that had been going through the minds of others of the time. But there is no minimizing his painstaking effort to gather the data that would constitute his opus. This is a book that makes the relatively slow-moving science of geology come to life.

Pick Attribution: 

Simon Winchester

Publication Date: 
Monday, January 1, 2001