Monday, March 29, 2010

The Map That Changed the World

The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology
by Simon Winchester [Compact Disc 550.92 Win]

Much of what makes up this story of a man of incredible observational and recording skills involves also the story of class conscious scholars who felt themselves slighted at the achievements of a common, though uncommon, man. William Smith was the first person to notice the relationship of layers of rock and stone to each other and, most importantly, the coal that was so desirable and necessary for the Industrial Revolution that had already swept England. His maps fit into a world that was just beginning to hear of evolution and other radical notions, mostly seen as attacks on the religious establishments. Smith's story takes us all over England, from Bath to the poor houses of London. Winchester's book is lively and detailed. The story is fast-paced, though not adventure-filled, as much of this work involved close scrutiny and careful cartography, hardly the stuff of blood-pumping thrills. He does spend what seems a great deal of time talking about the coal industry, but without it, there would be no context for Smith's achievements. This is a delightful book and well narrated. It is another way into the study of a time of enormous technological, social and ideological change. -- recommended by Sarah E.J. - Bennett Martin Public Library

[Also available in print format.]

[ official Map That Changed the World page on the official Simon Winchester web site ]

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