Customer Reviews for

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

Average Rating 3.5
( 23 )
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

Outstanding and highly recommended

During my stay in an American hospital I was given this wonderful book to read by my sister. That was 4 years ago and I have never forgotten the inspiring but tragic circumstance of this story. So today I've purchased it as a Christmas present for my girlfriends 16 yea...
During my stay in an American hospital I was given this wonderful book to read by my sister. That was 4 years ago and I have never forgotten the inspiring but tragic circumstance of this story. So today I've purchased it as a Christmas present for my girlfriends 16 year old son. I hope he finds it as interesting and compelling as I did.

posted by Anonymous on November 26, 2005

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Most Helpful Critical Review

2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

Good story but author brings too much personal baggage

I struggled thru the first 100 pages detecting and hoping for a good story. And I caught glimpses. But in the end, I only found a cure for insomnia. Too bad.... I think theres a great story here.

posted by 6876650 on January 25, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2012

    Good story but author brings too much personal baggage

    I struggled thru the first 100 pages detecting and hoping for a good story. And I caught glimpses. But in the end, I only found a cure for insomnia. Too bad.... I think theres a great story here.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2005

    Outstanding and highly recommended

    During my stay in an American hospital I was given this wonderful book to read by my sister. That was 4 years ago and I have never forgotten the inspiring but tragic circumstance of this story. So today I've purchased it as a Christmas present for my girlfriends 16 year old son. I hope he finds it as interesting and compelling as I did.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2014

    Biography, History and Geology all in one

    Not only is this a well written and absorbing biography of William Smith, the father of modern geology, it is also a good exposition of the times and the emergence of modern science. The concept of geology did not exist prior to William Smith's work and it was interesting to read about the origins of the science resulting from an ordinary surveyor's observations and conclusions. The next time I go to England I will find a geological guide book. It will be a whole new way to look at the english countryside.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2007

    A reviewer

    Mr. Winchester achieves two vastly different, though at the same time equally important objectives in the writing of this volume. The first of these is the documenting in great detail, the trials experienced by William Smith (which are by no means isolated instances in the history of science) during the long and difficult years necessary for the completion of this earliest geological map. As an example, Charles Darwin is widely believed to have been the one and only individual who first conceived the theory of evolution. Yet at present, few scholars and even fewer textbooks make any acknowledgement whatever of Alfred Wallace, Darwin¿s lesser known, though no less deserving co-discoverer of the same ideas. Perhaps, had Winchester not committed himself to the arduous task of putting pen to paper, William Smith would have been destined to suffer from much the same lack of recognition. This book, however, insures that such will not prove to be the end result. The author provides his readers with a substantial amount of information, probably encompassing about half of what is ultimately written, concerning the long and diverse history of our planet¿the second objective attained in these pages. This book is a must-read for anyone seriously interested in the history of geological science.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2002

    A wonderful read.

    I don't normally read books quickly, some remain for weeks before I pick them up again and carry on. This one I couldn't wait to pick up again and again when I had a spare moment. It is a poignant story of one person's obsession and determination that finally ends in triumph against all the odds. A very readable book that taught me a lot and has woken in me a desire to explore further this fascinating story and subject area. Anyone who has ever picked up a strange rock or fossil while out on a walk and wondered about its origins must read this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2003

    Good story badly written

    The first half of the book is difficult, it is very repetitious, not particularly interesting, and not to the point the introduction makes you think. Once through that section though, the story of Smith unfolds, the writting improves and the story becomes interesting.. As someone else said, it is a short story expanded badly.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2002

    A great story, badly told.

    I'm afraid I found this a great story ruined by the horribly psuedo-academic style of the writing. There was extensive and unnecessary use of obscure words not found in my copy of the Concise Oxford Dictionary. Mr. Winchester also droned on in sentences often exceeding fifty words. If you can possibly forgive the writing and get beyond it, you will find a good story buried within.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2001

    Wonderful story, but padded to book length

    The book is extremely well written, Smith's life is fascinating, and the illustrations (especially the ammonites) are superb. My one criticism is that there is a fair bit of padding by the author to make this a reasonable length manuscript. There apparently is simply not a lot of hard evidence for large periods of Smith's life or for important things such as his relationship with his wife (or the author couldn't find this). To get around this, the author includes much detail on his modern day tracing of Smith's trail, his search for Smith's actual residences (which seems to be of only little importance) and several quite irrelevant stories of the authors own fossil hunting expeditions, unsuccessful university history etc etc. He also adds a quite unnecessary glossary of terms, index, and a very long acknowledgements section. These could all have been left out, but of course the book would then be very short indeed, hardly longer than a long magazine article. On the other hand, the method of packaging a small version of Smith's map as the book cover paper is quite ingenious and well done.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 16, 2015

    Great Book

    I thought this was a great book. William Smith's insight was truly original. He was able to correctly date the layers of earth by the fossils it contained. This led to the modern science of geography, and indicated the most likely places to find coal, minerals and later gas and oil. It also led many to question the Church sanctioned belief that the Earth was only 6,000 years old. The beginnings of the Age of Enlightenment.

    I thought I knew a lot about history and geography, especially maps, but I had never heard of William Smith. I learned a lot. It makes me want to go to England to see his original map, the first modern map that showed what was beneath the soil.

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  • Posted March 16, 2009

    Riveting for intelligent historic alternative reading

    This has an HG Wells feel to its documentary narrative, and gives an enormous insight not only to geography, but how this shaped thinking at the time. Definitely not for creationists who think the world spun into existence 6000 years ago.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2008

    Unconvincing

    Book jacket blurbs 'about how original, astounding, and earth-shattering Smith's work was' keep intruding into the early pages of this book. The book tells how Smith collected and organized a prodigious amount of information that showed how field geology ought to be done - and uncovered what lay beneath the soil of England. But he was not a great theoretician and not very interested in the implications for how the earth was formed or how old it was. The books Smith bought in London, described in this book, demonstrate that Smith did not break new ground so much as he assembled information that confirmed or refuted earlier thinking. Smith's struggles to have his contributions recognized make a good story but the author fails to make a convincing case that Smith is as important to the progress of science as the author says he is.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2005

    Please excuse....

    I thought that this book did a good job telling the biography of a man who made a profound impact on the geological world, but by no means did he INVENT geology. And yes, Edmond Halley was a very important man in terms of scientific discovery, but he was an astronomer, not a geologist. Charles Lyell is referred to as the 'father of modern geology,' not Halley.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2004

    Quick, great read

    I found this book enjoyable and easy to read. Tells the history of Geology and the struggle of the man who invented it in an England where only the 'elite' get credit for their ideas. Written simply but fun to read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2001

    Exquisite Intellectual, Scientific and Social History!

    This book deserves more than five stars! I enjoy intellectual, scientific, and social history, and was delighted to see all three forms combined in one outstanding book. The result provides many interesting and helpful perspectives on the development of three-dimensional geological maps and their later use in the sciences of geology and biology, and in looking for mineral reserves. The details of this book are lovingly developed. Let's begin with the illustrations. The jacket dust cover can be unfolded to display a large, colored replica of William Smith's first geological map of Great Britain. Each stratum is colored in so it is darkest near the bottom and lightest near the top. You also get two smaller versions on color plates within the book. In identifying similar strata, he relied on differences in ammonite fossils, and 18 line drawings open 18 chapters so you can see how these compare to one another. You also get line drawings of oolitic limestone in which fossils are often found, and the types of fossils used as weighing stones and marbles on the farm where Mr. Smith grew up. To make the connection to Mr. Smith's thought process, the author has visited many of the sites where Mr. Smith made his initial observations that led him to develop the concept of the modern geological map. One particularly interesting one is a chapter about the author's own youth and finding a perfect fossil sample. Mr. Smith was not part of the gentry, which regularly provided the scientific advances of those days. Mostly self-taught, he was first a surveyer and later learned enough engineering to work on canals and projects like draining swamps. The gentry alternately encouraged and spurned him, which made the task more difficult. Mr. Smith's thought process basically involved noting that the order of strata in collieries were often the same. Mr. Smith began to theorize that the strata were connected over vast sections of land. Later work with canals proved him right, where he could expose considerable lengths of land to see the connections. Close observation led him to realize the potential use of fossils for strata identification at a time when The Origin of Species had not been written and Darwin was still a Creationist. From there, he worked mostly alone over decades to fill in the geological map with his own observations. It was an enormous task that no one would today consider doing alone! The problems of getting the first maps published are well described, as well. The book also puts the challenge that this work made to Creationism into a helpful perspective. The illustrations include a Bible page showing the date of the Creation as 4004 B.C. The subtle social interactions are also interesting, as Mr. Smith was considered someone to meet with for some purposes and not for others. He was snubbed during the founding of the Geological Society and the same people later plagiarized his work! Mr. Smith overspent his financial resources in pursuing the project, and fell into a ruinous debt and a disastrous marriage. The combination led him into debtor's prison just before the first map was published. He came out of prison to find his home boarded up and his possessions gone. He proceeded to live in obscurity for the next 12 years until scholarly praises for his work once again drew attention to him. In his last few years, he received honors (such as the first Wollaston Medal and a pension from the king). I also enjoyed reading about the books that Mr. Smith read to learn about how to create maps and overlay survey results. The process in use in those days often meant that he had to carry 40 maps with him while he traveled around the countryside to check outcroppings. Anyone who has studied geology will want to read this book. People who are fascinated by what one dedicated person can do will find the story inspirational. Those who enjoy understanding how important ideas develo

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2011

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    Posted November 28, 2009

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    Posted January 30, 2011

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    Posted March 13, 2010

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    Posted December 13, 2009

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    Posted October 16, 2010

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