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Book Title: The Map that Changed the World: The Tale of William Smith & the Birth of a Science|
The author of the book: Simon Winchester
Date of issue: May 1st 2010
ISBN 13: 9781408498392
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 827 KB
Read full description of the books The Map that Changed the World: The Tale of William Smith & the Birth of a Science:
The official blurb says it the best: "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 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. MY COMMENTS:
Simon Winchester had William Smith's diaries to help him compile this detailed account of one man's struggle to open up the science of stratigraphy (geology). What should have been a joyous discovery, turned into one man's ceaseless war against his own humiliation and ill fortune, forced to waste his energies raging against the cheating and class discrimination that seemed, time and again, to frustrate him.
The author kept the interest in the tale alive with his conversational tone throughout. Statements like these, brought a smile to my face:
"It was left to the genial Irish prelate James Ussher, while he was bishop of Armagh, to fix the date with absolute precision. According to his workings, which he managed to convince his clerical colleagues were impeccably accurate, God had created the world and all its creatures in one swift and uninterrupted process of divine mechanics that began on the dot of the all-too-decent hour of 9 A.M., on a Monday, October 23, 4004 B.C."
Suffice to say, William Smith's birth, on March 23, 1769, in the cottage on the edge of the green in Churchill, Oxfordshire, took place, according to their implacably held beliefs, exactly 5,772 years, four months, and sixteen days after the creation of the world. He was the first son of the local blacksmith in the hamlet of Churchill.
It is within this social mileu that William Smith, with his interest in fossils and rocks, would draw up the first geological map of England and change the world of science forever.
"It was a document that was to change the face of a science—indeed, to create a whole new science—to set in train a series of scientific movements that would lead, eventually, to the inquiries of Charles Darwin, to the birth of evolutionary theory, and to the burgeoning of an entirely new way for human beings to view their world and their universe. The inevitable collision between the new rationally based world of science and the old ecclesiastical, faith-directed world of belief was about to occur—and in the vanguard of the new movement, both symbolically and actually, was the great map, and now this equally enormous atlas that John Cary of the Strand was about to publish, and the revolutionary thinking that lay behind their making."
A fascinating biography of a brilliant man. He did not have class, or money, or the right address, but he had the nerve to persist and win.
Captivating. Entertaining. Excellent.
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Read information about the authorSimon Winchester, OBE, is a British writer, journalist and broadcaster who resides in the United States. Through his career at The Guardian, Winchester covered numerous significant events including Bloody Sunday and the Watergate Scandal. As an author, Simon Winchester has written or contributed to over a dozen nonfiction books and authored one novel, and his articles appear in several travel publications including Condé Nast Traveler, Smithsonian Magazine, and National Geographic.
In 1969, Winchester joined The Guardian, first as regional correspondent based in Newcastle upon Tyne, but was later assigned to be the Northern Ireland Correspondent. Winchester's time in Northern Ireland placed him around several events of The Troubles, including the events of Bloody Sunday and the Belfast Hour of Terror.
After leaving Northern Ireland in 1972, Winchester was briefly assigned to Calcutta before becoming The Guardian's American correspondent in Washington, D.C., where Winchester covered news ranging from the end of Richard Nixon's administration to the start of Jimmy Carter's presidency. In 1982, while working as the Chief Foreign Feature Writer for The Sunday Times, Winchester was on location for the invasion of the Falklands Islands by Argentine forces. Suspected of being a spy, Winchester was held as a prisoner in Tierra del Fuego for three months.
Winchester's first book, In Holy Terror, was published by Faber and Faber in 1975. The book drew heavily on his first-hand experiences during the turmoils in Ulster. In 1976, Winchester published his second book, American Heartbeat, which dealt with his personal travels through the American heartland. Winchester's third book, Prison Diary, was a recounting of his imprisonment at Tierra del Fuego during the Falklands War and, as noted by Dr Jules Smith, is responsible for his rise to prominence in the United Kingdom. Throughout the 1980s and most of the 1990s, Winchester produced several travel books, most of which dealt with Asian and Pacific locations including Korea, Hong Kong, and the Yangtze River.
Winchester's first truly successful book was The Professor and the Madman (1998), published by Penguin UK as The Surgeon of Crowthorne. Telling the story of the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary, the book was a New York Times Best Seller, and Mel Gibson optioned the rights to a film version, likely to be directed by John Boorman.
Though Winchester still writes travel books, he has repeated the narrative non-fiction form he used in The Professor and the Madman several times, many of which ended in books placed on best sellers lists. His 2001 book, The Map that Changed the World, focused on geologist William Smith and was Whichester's second New York Times best seller. The year 2003 saw Winchester release another book on the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary, The Meaning of Everything, as well as the best-selling Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded. Winchester followed Krakatoa's volcano with San Francisco's 1906 earthquake in A Crack in the Edge of the World. The Man Who Loved China (2008) retells the life of eccentric Cambridge scholar Joseph Needham, who helped to expose China to the western world. Winchester's latest book, The Alice Behind Wonderland, was released March 11, 2011.
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