The Map that Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geography, by Simon Winchester

Winchester, the author of “The Professor and the Madman” on the making of the Oxford English Dictionary, goes back to a slightly earlier time in English history for this story of William Smith and the part his discoveries had in founding geology as an accepted field of scientific study. The son of a village blacksmith, William experienced class discrimination and plagiarism of his work by various aristocratic snobs. However, he persisted against the odds and created the first geological map of Britain among other accomplishments. Winchester paints a vivid picture of the intellectual times of the late 18th and early 19th centuries and how scientific thought developed. Some sections of the book on the geology of England I found repetitious and sleep inducing, but overall, it introduced me to an interesting facet of science history that I knew nothing about.

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RATING: * * * A good read
Reviewed by: kh

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