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When I was a New York manny before moving to western MA to go to grad school one of the families I worked for gave me this book I think I was probably supposed to return it, but wound up having to leave NY in a hurry because of a health and then a housing situation So I still have this on my non fiction shelves and every once in a while pick it up and flip through the pages and think about the discovery such a loaded and often unwieldy term of the consistent and patterned behavior of earth s sedimentary layers and one man in particular who took that information and ran with it though sometimes into walls and closed doors Many goodreads reviewers are less than satisfied with the delivery of this book, and I hear that There are also some notices of misinformation And others argue that there is enough substance in here for a pamphlet but not necessarily a book length manuscript I think all of these things are fair points to make, but I still found that the book was enjoyable and educational So, somewhere between a 3 and a 4. This is a very interesting story poorly told The preface and the first chapter both tell the whole story in a nutshell, and the rest of the book goes on to fill out the details in an awkward, often overblown manner The story is however quite compelling, about the dramatic life of William Smith, the first person to understand, survey and then map the stratification of rocks in England, thereby establishing modern geology His is a cautionary tale for would be entrepreneurs that are not from the moneyed classes yes we still have them just they did in early 19th C England His reactions to continual snubbing by the upper classes and theft of his IP reminded me ofthan one would be startup CEO overspending and overreaching in an attempt to play with the big boys of finance If you can deal with Winchester s arch prose, it is worth the read Ideally, someone would write one of those longish pieces in the New Yorker about the story that is really all the material there really is, and a better written narrative would do the subject considerable benefit N.B I read a reviewers draft that might have been somewhat rougher than final copies I can only hope so. This book turned out to be something that I wasn t much interested in after all But, it was interesting none the less It was well researched and well written and deserved a better rating, maybe by someone interested in geology.It was about Englishman William Smith who was a common man with no wealth or title He dedicated his life to mapping the underground of England during the Age of Enlightenment His findings became very beneficial to the economy of England, but he gained little fame or fortune because of his class status He ended up in debtors prison and only afterwards did he get the recognition he deserved Then came the collision of religious beliefs and scientific reasoning with the discovery of fossils. Despite having read and very much enjoying Simon Winchester s The Alice Behind Wonderland, about Alice Liddell, the inspiration for Lewis Carroll s Alice s Adventures in Wonderland, it has taken me an awfully long time to pick up another book of his I bought The Map That Changed the World A Tale of Rocks, Ruin and Redemption from a Salvation Army bookshop a couple of years ago, intending to read it immediately, and for some reason it has languished on my to read shelf ever since The Map That Changed the World became an international bestseller following its publication in 2001, on the two hundredth anniversary of Smith s first map The Spectator declares Winchester is the perfect narrator for this lovely story of success against the odds The Financial Times calls the book a fascinating tribute to the man who put the unseen world of the underground on display , and the New Statesman comments this is what a model of popular history can be The Map That Changed the World tells the true story of William Smith Though he was not rich or well connected , his passion for fossils and his twenty year obsession with single handedly mapping the geology of Britain mark him out as a man who should be praised Smith, however, pursued his interests at great personal cost his wife suffered madness, and his work was stolen by jealous men who eventually pushed him into ruin Although Smith became one of the most significant men of the nineteenth century , he is largely forgotten in the modern world Strata Smith, as Winchester occasionally calls him, was a man who crossed boundaries of class, wealth and science to produce a map that fundamentally changed the way we view the world His first map was produced in 1801, and a revised version appeared in 1815 This later map hangs behind a pair of huge sky blue velvet curtains in Burlington House, London It measures over eight by six feet, and is the work of a craftsman, lovingly done, the culmination of years of study, months of careful labour This was the first geological map of anywhere in the world, which alone heralded the beginnings of a whole new science It is a map that laid the foundations of a field of study that culminated in the work of Charles Darwin Smith s output is remarkable for many a reason Not only did he create the first geological map in the world, but he did so entirely by himself In his prologue, Winchester writes All the Herculean labours that were involved in the mapping of the imagined underside of an entire country were accomplished not by an army or a legion or a committee or a team, but by the lone individual who finally put his signature to the completed document William Smith, then forty six years old, the orphaned son of the village blacksmith from the unsung hamlet of Churchill in Oxfordshire In The Map That Changed the World, Winchester has conducted his own research into Smith and the social and scientific climate in which he lived He has also included fragments of Smith s diaries and letters, in order to present a portrait of a long forgotten man Winchester opens his account in 1819, when Smith is released from a London debtor s prison known as the King s Bench The author both sets the scene and captures Smith for his readers immediately Some less charitable souls might call him a rather plain looking man, perhaps even a little ugly His forehead slants backwards, a trifle alarmingly His nose is rather too large for comfort His mutton chop whiskers are wayward But in most of the pictures he seems to be wearing an expression that serves by way of compensation for the facial shortcomings he seems by his looks at once tolerant, kindly and perhaps even vaguely amused by the dull complexities of his life Winchester s commentary then shifts backward in time to examine Smith s life He was born at the beginning of a period of immense change, in most fields Winchester writes And when Smith was born, the rate and scale of alteration to society was such that even those in so small and isolated a settlement as Churchill, Oxfordshire, would be bound to notice It is this which impacts upon Smith, urging him to leave his tiny hamlet as soon as he is able, to go and work on designing a network of canals.It was when Smith was employed at a mine near Bath that he really notices the differences in the rock structure of the earth Winchester comments Smith could only stare at the junction between the rocks and wonder why How How could one possibly make sense of such a bizarre arrangement But make sense of it Smith did, refining his thoughts and research over time, and leading him to make a number of important, even pivotal, discoveries The Map That Changed the World appealed to me on so many levels I am always keen to learn about figures who have been largely forgotten over the centuries, and knowing very little about Smith piqued my interest I was also a keen collector of fossils as a child, and very much enjoy cartography too Here, Winchester has presented an engaging account of a man who so deserves to be remembered He has included a wealth of extra information of interest to the reader, including a stratigraphical column with the timespan of each geological period a glossary of terms notes on sources a list of recommended further reading and an index The frontispiece is adorned with a copy of Smith s 1815 geological map Winchester s writing is engaging and highly accessible, and he wonderfully handles his primary material Quite a dramatic tale in parts, The Map That Changed the World held my interest throughout, and whilst informative, it never felt overloaded with facts Anyone remotely interested in cartography, geography, geology, or just the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, is bound to get a lot out of this wonderful book. Winchester s biography of William Smith, one of the fathers of English geology, should sing with the joy of intellectual discovery, but doesn t quite get there for me.From the start, Winchester flags the collapse of Smith s fortunes and the misappropriation of his findings by wealthier, better connected men than he He builds anticipation of misfortune throughout until the bailiffs actually arrive and Smith is imprisoned for debt When it actually happens it is almost a relief, as the long way down has been an exhausting journey For me, this overweighs excitement at the significance of Smith s realisations that the laying down of fossils in different strata of England s landscape marked the beginning of a modern scientific view of the earth s history as one marked by long periods of changing climate, flora and fauna that species appeared and disappeared and that the record of all these great changes lay in rocks and could be read.This challenged creation myths of all faiths, and must have influenced Charles Darwin s thinking as he worked towards his theory of evolution Winchester may have written about this, but I confess to skipping through sections on Smith s struggles, and may have missed it. Rocks They re old.Thank you for reading my review.OK, I guess I ll go into slightlydetail In his phenomenal A Short History of Nearly Everything , Bill Bryson devotes slightly less than a page to William Smith and the first geological map of Britain This is likely a result of Bryson or his editors striving in vain to meet that promise of being short Bryson promises us acomprehensive account in The Map That Changed the World I didn t actually find this book through A Short History of Nearly Everything I only saw the reference when I went back to look up what Bryson has to say about Smith One day I casually stumbled upon the story of William Smith, fossils, and rocks, and this seemed like the sensible book to buy in order to learnThis guess largely turned out to be correct, with some minor quibbles and caveats.Much like Longitude , another non fiction book that I read recently, The Map That Changed the World is a semi biographical look at the contributions of one man to a field of scientific study in this case, geology By definition it attributes to William Smith an importance that might be overstated, in the sense that English geology seemed to be doing fine without him and probably would have continued doing fine if he hadn t come on the scene Yet it s true that Smith s contributions are both important and, considering his background and his often penurious circumstances, all theoutstanding If one wants to examine how one individual affected a scientific discipline, few choices would beappropriate than William Smith.Simon Winchester begins by describing Smith s release from debtor s prison before jumping back to his origins and start as a surveyor in rural England As with most endeavours, Smith s come to fruition through a careful combination of skill, hard work, and luck Sometimes he s in the right place at the right time to get a job that lets him travel around England, looking at layers of rock such is the case with his position surveying for the new Somerset Canal As Winchester unfolds Smith s life before us, we get to see how the economics of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries played a role in shaping scientific inquiry The vast, industrial scope of coal mining gave Smith both the access and the reason to delve deep beneath the Earth and look at layers of strata More importantly, the rich upper class interest in being able to find coal before digging up their property provided an economic interest in Smith s studies Although it certainly seems like Smith was both clever and dedicated, I can t help but form the impression that he also happened to be born at the right time, and in the right country England, Winchester explains, was ripe for a revolution in scientific thinking And Smith s discovery that fossils are the key indicators of a rock s type and age would begin that revolution.If Smith is correct, then the Earth is not six thousand years old It s far, far older This was not the popular view in Smith s time and would not be for some time after his death as Winchester is careful to point out, Smith himself did not care to go so far as to posit how or why stratification occurs the way it does He just reported what he had observed, and used it to make useful predictions But it was a start, a beginning in a chain of reasoning that would lead geologists to speculate that the Earth s past extends into the millions and billions of years, and culminate in Charles Darwin publishing a controversial treatise about the origins of humankind.The way that Smith and so many scientists clung to the Biblical interpretation of the origins and age of the Earth stayed on my mind as I read this book Although I m an atheist, I do not view science and religion as irreconcilable However, people who subscribe to fundamentalism but also claim to be adherents of science do puzzle me There are, to put it lightly, contradictions between these two schools of thought And with science, as with fundamentalism, it seems to me that it is hypocritical to pick and choose What makes science so enduring, so potent dare I say, so sexy is that everything is interconnected in incredibly complex and interesting ways So Smith s ideas lead inexorably to this idea that the Earth is much older than six thousand years Our ability to calculate, now, things like the speed and direction of motion of planets and satellites and even stars lets us turn the clock back , so to speak, and look at the solar system thousands or even millions of years ago Fundamentalists reject all these claims and come up with very creative ways of doing so But many watch television Many use cars Many wear glasses and take medicine These are all a result of the same science that tells us the Earth is ancient and the stars themselves gave us life How can one accept all themundane marvels but reject the other ones and still claim to be consistent Obviously it s very easy if one does not claim consistency, but for some reason people get offended when you go up to them, call them a hypocrite, and begin itemizing contradictions in their personal belief system But I digress The Map That Changed the World got me thinking about science, the nature of science and how we do science, as any good science history book should do It also chronicles the difficulties Smith faced as he began working on his geological map Some of these were difficulties of his own making he lived as if he were well off and had a stable income, and he married a wife who was an emotional and financial burden Some were a product of the still rigid class system, wherein Smith was an uneducated country bumpkin, and upstart whose contributions should be overlooked whenever possible and stolen if not The story of how George Greenough blocked Smith from membership in the fledgling Geological Society which was, after all, just supposed to be a dinner club for gentlemen and then plagiarized from Smith s map to produce one of lesser utility on behalf of the Society is exactly the type of dirty scientific feud I love to read about And Winchester delivers on all of these accounts.I also loved reading about Smith s dedication to this singular task He travelled all across England and Wales to compile observations and evidence for this map Granted, England isn t quite as large as, say, Canada but he did this on foot or by coach And he had to go into the field, dig into the mud, get dirty, day after day for decades in order to get the data he required For that alone he deserves a medal A note about the map at the beginning of this book remarks that its similarity to modern maps is all theimpressive because it is the work of one man, whereas modern maps are the work of large, coordinated teams This is a keen observation Despite being terrible with money, unlucky in love, and reluctant to publish until it was almost too late, William Smith was a profoundly hard worker I m not quite certain I m as eager to buy into Winchester s attempts to turn this into a discussion over the gulf between fieldworkers and theorists, but at the very least, it made me, as an armchair mathematician extraordinaire, feel very lazy There are a few aspects of Winchester s writing style that marred my otherwise unqualified enjoyment of this book He is overly enamoured of the passive voice It kept reappearing, feeling very out of place by dint of Winchester s attempt to give his account a sweeping, narrative arc Also, while Winchester is very diligent about noting when we have evidence available to us and when something is mere speculation, he does like to indulge in considerable parenthetical digressions about what might have motivated Smith to do one thing or another That is to say, he injects too many of his own conjectures and opinions about Smith for my own liking I m not sure how to say this without saying I would have preferred a drier account I kept comparing Winchester unfavourably to Bryson, who always seems to manage to make the subject of his writing the focus of any sentence rather than his own thoughts on the matter.This is a nicely designed book, with some cool illustrations, and my edition has a colour plate in the middle depicting a map Alas, it s so small that the detail is almost indecipherable Yet it probably could have been shorter Winchester includes an entire chapter that is nothing but an interlude describing his childhood fascination with fossils along the cliffs of Dover It s informative in its own way, and I suppose for some readers it might be the highlight of the book for me, however, it was a distraction from the main story of William Smith Coupled with Winchester s tendency to hop through the chronology occasionally in vexing ways in order to highlight certain themes, thereby repeating or relating some factsthan once, and The Map That Changed the World is slightly long winded.Neither of these criticisms are enough to stop me from recommending this book to others, mind you I m not as certain I will read other things by Winchester, but I ll take a look at his catalogue and see if anything else piques my interest This is far from a perfect book, and there were times when I found my mind wandering to other topics or found myself cursing the overabundance of passive constructions Overall, though, The Map That Changed the World is a detailed and passionate account of the life of William Smith and his contributions to English geology It has its rough patches But it promises to tell the story of how one map changed everything, and in this respect, the book definitely succeeds. This is truly a beautifull homage for a man who gained recognition for his work very late in his own life This is a scientific non fiction book, but the way it is told it reads like a great adventure novel of the quest towards a geological map , which is in my opinion has been a very good choice to tell the story Also it is obvious that the author is a fan of William Smith and his work which made this a very happy book to read because the author has so much compassions for Smith s trials.Because of its adventurous vibe this book is very accesible also for readers who do not know anything about geology like me I do not pretend I understood the whole book, but thetechnicial parts I could easily skip in favour of the story.So recommended for everyone with a general like for science maps geology or everyone who loves a story with an adventurous, altough a bit naive, protagenist, betrayal and a fitting reward at the end for the good guy. Though the writing style is not quite what his other books have been, I have to give it 4 stars for a thoroughly interesting trek through the world of eccentric 19thC English science I love this period s history of scientific exploration and the pure enthusiasm and fearlessness and determination of many of the explorations into hitherto unknown realms Geology was practically brand new except for elite, upper class fossil, mineral and rock collectors who met occasionally at elaborate dinner parties and drank and talked but did little or no field studies Then along comes this nobody who for 20 years is crawling around engineered trenches and digging below the surfaces and who makes the most formative, huge, hand colored map of all of the British Isles and what lay beneath the green heath In come the aristocrats to discredit him.Wonderful read. This is the third Winchester book I ve read in quick succession and I m almost tempted to say that they just get better and better except they probably don t I think they are all equally good This one is about the father of English Geology If the advance of knowledge really does depend on the geniuses who can see patterns where for the rest of us see only chaos then William Smith is precisely that kind of genius a man who gets it and forever changes how we see the world.I ll admit it I m partial to stories where the good guy wins out in the end particularly after being faced with absurd odds I even like stories where the guy gets the girl or vice versa And this book does end happily even after except I didn t come away from this book feeling particularly good about humanity Especially not that section of humanity that is the upper class As Winchester says during the book, it was almost as if the rich felt Smith needed to be taught a lesson for having the audacity of being both lower class and having worked out the secrets of geology before his betters.Why is it that so often if one person has power over another person the favourite game of those with power is humiliation Smith was remarkably lucky in many respects I mean, he ended up with a pension and with general respect but for years he suffered and virtually no one lifted a finger to help him And isn t that the problem with systems of patronage Even when all is done as stipulated and required one is left dangling at the whim of the patron The humiliations Smith had to endure most evident with the treatment meted out to him around the forced sale of his precious fossil collection and the costs to him of these humiliations I mean costs in the literal sense and not just to his pride were truly staggering If you think the world is about 6000 years old I really couldn t recommend this book to you but then, besides the Bible, I couldn t recommend any book to you For everyone else, this really is an intensely interesting and deeply moving work I ve said it before how is it possible that none of this guy s books have been made into TV programmes I ve heard his talking books and I reckon he could be the David Attenborough of Geology and Lexicography And if there is one thing the world definitely needs it isDavid Attenboroughs Come on BBC get your finger out. `Download Book ⇧ The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology ⇺ In , 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 Finally, In , 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