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The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology | [Simon Winchester]

The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology

In 1793, William Smith, the orphan son of a village blacksmith, made a startling discovery that was to turn the science of geology on its head. While surveying the route for a canal near Bath, he noticed that the fossils found in one layer of the rocks he was excavating were very different from those found in another. And out of that realization came an epiphany: that by following these fossils one could trace layers of rocks as they dipped, rose and fell, clear across England and clear across the world.
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Publisher's Summary

In 1793, William Smith, the orphan son of a village blacksmith, made a startling discovery that was to turn the science of geology on its head. While surveying the route for a canal near Bath, he noticed that the fossils found in one layer of the rocks he was excavating were very different from those found in another. And out of that realization came an epiphany: that by following these fossils one could trace layers of rocks as they dipped, rose and fell, clear across England and clear across the world.

Obsessed with creating a map that would showcase his discovery, Smith spent the next twenty years traveling England alone, studying rock outcroppings and gathering information. In 1815, he published a hand-painted map more than eight feet tall and six feet wide. But four years later, swindled out of his profits, Smith ended up in debtors' prison. His wife went mad. He lived as a homeless man for ten long years.

Eventually a kindly aristocrat discovered him; Smith, the quiet genius and 'father of geology' was brought back to London and showered with the honors that he rightly deserved. Here now is his astounding story.

©2001 Simon Winchester; (P)2003 HarperCollinsPublishers, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Winchester is a fine stylist who also has a fine, clear reading voice. He fully engages listeners, not only with the excitement of Smith's life and work, but even with geological explications that would have been pretty dull in science class." (Publishers Weekly)
"It's an authoritative delivery and an enjoyable experience." (AudioFile)
"This is just the kind of creative nonfiction that elevates a seemingly arcane topic into popular fare." (Booklist)
"Winchester brings Smith's struggle to life in clear and beautiful language." (The New York Times Book Review)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (348 )
5 star
 (119)
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Overall
4.1 (168 )
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Story
4.3 (167 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Reuel South Bend, IN, United States 09-03-12
    Reuel South Bend, IN, United States 09-03-12 Member Since 2010

    drj

    HELPFUL VOTES
    27
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    47
    14
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    0
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    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Important history"
    If you could sum up The Map That Changed the World in three words, what would they be?

    observation, comprehension, re/evolution (cheating a little on that last "word")


    What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

    The awareness that the earth was much older and dynamic than previously supposed is the crux, and the author does an excellent job placing the key observations within the economic setting of mining coal and digging canal, which he relates to one another very logically and clearly. The less interesting aspect was the class and personal rivalries that slowed acceptance (a little) but mostly threatened the credit due to Smith.


    Would you listen to another book narrated by Simon Winchester?

    yes


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    no


    Any additional comments?

    The author takes too much time at the beginning telling us, repeatedly, that the findings were important without actually telling us how or why. Maybe that is necessary in popularized science. He also expects the readers to know English geography better than I do. His personal experience on the beaches during school contribute only marginally to the main story. But the main story is (actually, finally) so important that these amount to quibbles.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    connie 04-24-12
    connie 04-24-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    34
    7
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    "Great story!...if not a tiny bit boring on and off"
    Where does The Map That Changed the World rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    I really enjoyed this book but it was very dry and gets down right boring at times but the story is worth the trouble to listen to if you have any interest in maps.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Scottsville, VA United States 03-14-14
    Amazon Customer Scottsville, VA United States 03-14-14
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    8
    8
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "jumps around but interesting"
    What made the experience of listening to The Map That Changed the World the most enjoyable?

    Down to earth real life story about a human being including their highest and lowest points. It does sit the reader down in a real life story easy to relate to.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Map That Changed the World?

    Hearing about a mans struggle to be accepted


    What three words best describe Simon Winchester’s performance?

    Dreadful monotone monotonous


    Any additional comments?

    I've now listened to 2 books orated by this author and for me, even though the writing is good, the oration is so monotonous that this will be my last purchase of this orator and that is a shame. Good author does not make a good author. And, the book skips around in time a lot. Still, even though I won't buy another by this orator, I don't regret the purchase.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    rwise Deer Park, TX 01-16-06
    rwise Deer Park, TX 01-16-06 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    3
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    "Interesting read, but why not metric?"

    Like the other books from Simon Winchester this book is pleasant, not least because the author reads his books himself. Even though this is a narrative rather than a scientific book I wish he would switch to the metric system instead of referring to feet, inches, pounds and ounces. As a science author he should not support the obsolete empirical system. Today only the United States, Liberia, and Myanmar continue to not use the metric system.

    3 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Abner Brookline, MA, USA 01-24-04
    Abner Brookline, MA, USA 01-24-04
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    2
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    0
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    Overall
    "The science we take for granted"

    I read the paper version of this book. It is a fascinating account of how one man persevered to change the world's view of geology. If you like geology and the history of science, this is time well spent. I gave it a three since my experience was with the paper version.

    2 of 27 people found this review helpful
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