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The Map That Changed the World: William…
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The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern… (2001)

by Simon Winchester (Author)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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» See also 82 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 61 (next | show all)
fans of maps & bill bryson both rec. it
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Apr 14, 2015 |
Audiobook has intrusive music.
  rakerman | Mar 2, 2015 |
Enjoyable account of the cruelly neglected, even insulted, pioneer of geology. Winchester also enjoys his own exploration of the geological features he explores. i never knew oolite could be so delightful. The sense of a hidden world (the strata beneath) and the oppressive society of early 19th C England are well portrayed. And the poor lonely man with his mad, possibly nymphomaniac wife - and despite the book, he's still an unknown. and yet people like faraday and Davy (who he brushes elbows with) were also sons of soil and toil who won recognition and are even now household names. Is Winchester overstating his case? My contextual knowledge of the history of geoscience is not up to judging that ( )
  vguy | Dec 31, 2014 |
It was a very enjoyable and easy read. There are parts scattered throughout the book where the author tends to ramble and wander onto tangents. The book would have been stronger and tighter if the author had stayed on topic. The line drawings peppered through the book add a nice bit of visual detail but I would have liked to have seen even more of them used. ( )
  pussreboots | Aug 18, 2014 |
I really enjoyed this little book about the ups and downs of the life of British geoloogist William Smith. He invented stratigraphy, and his genius was not rewarded until later in life. At times Mr. Winchester's portrayal of William Smith became a little boring, but at other times the writing was fluid and robust. If you like history and biographies this is a terrific book to read. I liked it, so will you. ( )
  robrod1 | Jan 31, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 61 (next | show all)
Smith was ultimately successful because his ideas were immediately useful, and his map was beautiful as well as reasonably accurate for its era. It taught us to begin to look beneath the surface and see the history of our planet. The publisher of ''The Map That Changed the World'' pays tribute to Smith in the ingenious dust jacket of this book, which unfolds to form a striking reproduction of Smith's map.
 
True, the reader must put aside a familiarity with Smith's discoveries, which have long since become textbook information, and travel back in time to the days when the earth was literally terra incognita. But for those willing to suspend previous knowledge and great expectations, Mr. Winchester tries hard to make this story worth the trip.
 
The genre of scientific biography has gone rather stale over the last year or so, but Winchester's book may well prompt a revival.
 
Listening is akin to hearing an articulate scientist reading a paper to a lay audience. It's an authoritative delivery and an enjoyable experience.
 

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Winchester, SimonAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Vannithone, SounIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Above one of the many grand marble staircases within the east wing of Burlington House, the great Palladian mansion on the north side of London's Piccadilly, hangs a pair of huge sky blue velvet curtains, twisted and tasseled silk ropes beside them. (Prologue)
The last day of August 1819, a Tuesday, dawned gray, showery, and refreshingly cool in London, promising a welcome end to a weeklong spell of close and muggy weather that seemed to have put all the capital's citizens in a nettlesome, liverish mood.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060931809, Paperback)

Once upon a time there lived a man who discovered the secrets of the earth. He traveled far and wide, learning about the world below the surface. After years of toil, he created a great map of the underworld and expected to live happily ever after. But did he? Simon Winchester (The Professor and the Madman) tells the fossil-friendly fairy tale life of William Smith in The Map That Changed the World.

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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:51 -0400)

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Smith, a canal digger, spent twenty years working on the first geological map of the British Isles which he published in 1815.

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