The Map that changed the World

In 1793, 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 more. Finally, in 1831, 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 (2002) 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. ISBN 978-0140280395

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