Blog Pile

Reading Time: “The Map that Changed the World”

This slow time has allowed a rare luxury: finishing a good book.

On one forgotten trip a few months back, thumbing through the schlock selections at some airport bookstore, one caught my attention because of a geology cross-section on the cover. Simon Winchester’s “The Map that Changed the World” is the riveting story of William Smith, truly the “father of modern geology.” (Michelle hopefully has a copy ;-)

Smith’s careful observations across Britain, Wales, and Ireland in the time of the 18th century led to the modern understanding of identifying rocks formed in the same geologic age by their distinctive fossils. It is the base of stratigraphy first year geology students learn. Smith;s life work was the first comprehensive geologic map of a country.

But it was much more than this. Smith upended the science establishment as a solitary effort. His work spanned a transition from widespread belief in literal Bible explanation of how the earth was formed (from the profound counting of begats by Bishop Usher to determine the earth was created exactly Monday, October 23, 4004 B.C. at 9:00 AM! Sadly, Google finds people still clinging to this) to not only the birth of Geology as a new science, but acceptance of the scientific method.

Being born a commoner, Smith also had to deal with class persecution having his work shut out, even stolen by the reigning aristocrats who were the active leaders in science at the time. Smith was eventually financially ruined, spent time in debtors prison, and only late in his life received the recognition he rightfully earned.

Anyhow, the book was enjoyed here.

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. Definitely have a copy, and also really enjoyed it. I remember being struck by the number of assumptions that we make about time now, and thought I would include the first part of that book as “required reading” for the geology course I have been working on for the last few years.

    I always liked the recent history part of geology… (you know, the part with people)…

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