John Howell in www.theconversation.com 30 Jan 2015
This year marks the 200th anniversary since William Smith published his life’s work, a geological map of England and Wales, in 1815. While “Strata Smith” and his map are well-known among geologists, this humble man and his amazing map do not receive the attention or wider recognition they deserve. Smith’s achievement was arguably as significant as Darwin’s, yet he resides in relative obscurity.
Smith’s achievement was remarkable for a number of reasons. He made the scientific leap that the rocks of the Earth’s crust could be overlaid onto a basic topographic map, in doing so giving birth to the science of geology. He also did this in the face of considerable social prejudice – at a time when the scientific community were landed gentry and gentlemen of leisure the idea that Smith, a lowly surveyor, could come up with such a revolutionary concept was derided. His work was plagiarised and he was bankrupted, spending time in debtor’s jail, before his eventual vindication just before his death in 1839. The fact that he single handily managed to map the whole of England and Wales, in his spare time, to produce a map that is remarkably accurate even today is to any modern geologist truly breathtaking. Click here to read more.