Monday, April 03, 2006

The Map That Changed The World by Simon Winchester

Just recently finished reading this account of William Smith.Apparently he's the unsung father of modern geology.I'd never heard of him prior to picking up this small print paperback at a sale.The "Map" of the title refers to his handpainted map which shows the layers of rocks beneath England.The book describes his scientific discovery of fossils and rock strata and his single-minded task in creating a geological underground map of the country.
The story unfolds in the midst of the Industrial Revolution at a time when science and discovery were flourishing and knowledge expanding.Its also a story of professional and scientific rivalry and jealousy.
That Winchester likes Smith is a given but he doesnt paint him as a saint.While showing how he was wronged and why he remains an obscure figure Winchester also notes Smiths own personal failures and faults.
Definitely a worthwhile read not only for shedding light on this relatively unknown figure but also for the background material Winchester provides about the Industrial Revolution and canal building and society which flesh out and bring to life what might otherwise be a somewhat dour bland tale.

1 comment:

Alex said...

If you like this, try 'Longitude' by Dava Sobel (full name Longitude : The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time (1995))
Also ... quite enjoying that hitchhiker book so far :P