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Beverly Eschberger
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Amanda Foreman

Simon Winchester

The map that changed the world

The science of geology began to take off at the end of the eighteenth century, as people began to realise the information about the history of the earth which could be obtained by studying the rocks and the fossils they contained. 'The Map that Changed the World' is the story of William Smith, one of the main participants in this revolution in knowledge. It is centred on his creation of the first geological map of Britain, and shows what trials and tribulations he experienced in its making. The book is very readable, and requires no previous knowledge of the subjects covered.

The story of Smith's life has an almost novel-like plot. The man of humble origins works himself up to great things, but then falls into poverty, partly as a result of overreaching himself but partly because of the machinations of others. But things work out OK in the end, as he eventually gets his due recognition. The book also brings out Winchester's love of the English countryside as he retraces some of the journeys made by Smith two centuries before. The book has been criticised for Winchester's somewhat over-enthusiastic telling of the story, but I say 'What's wrong with that?' - the book is an excellent introduction to the history of geology, and there is a list of suggestions for further reading for those who want to go into the subject more deeply.

Amazon.com info
Paperback 329 pages  
ISBN: 0060931809
Salesrank: 1314107
Weight:0.65 lbs
Published: 2002 Harper Perennial
Amazon price $9.98
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Amazon.co.uk info
Paperback 352 pages  
ISBN: 0140280391
Salesrank: 27034
Weight:0.49 lbs
Published: 2002 Penguin
Amazon price £10.68
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Amazon.ca info
Paperback 352 pages  
ISBN: 0060931809
Salesrank: 906617
Weight:0.65 lbs
Published: 2002 Harper Perennial
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 17.98:Used from CDN$ 0.01
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Product Description

In 1793, a canal digger named William Smith made a startling discovery. He found that by tracing the placement of fossils, which he uncovered in his excavations, one could follow layers of rocks as they dipped and rose and fell -- clear across England and, indeed, clear across the world -- making it possible, for the first time ever, to draw a chart of the hidden underside of the earth. Determined to expose what he realized was the landscape's secret fourth dimension, Smith spent twenty-two years piecing together the fragments of this unseen universe to create an epochal and remarkably beautiful hand-painted map. But instead of receiving accolades and honors, he ended up in debtors' prison, the victim of plagiarism, and virtually homeless for ten years more. Finally, in 1831, this quiet genius -- now known as the father of modern geology -- received the Geological Society of London's highest award and King William IV offered him a lifetime pension.

The Map That Changed the World is a very human tale of endurance and achievement, of one man's dedication in the face of ruin. With a keen eye and thoughtful detail, Simon Winchester unfolds the poignant sacrifice behind this world-changing discovery.