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07.12.2013
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.
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. 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. I loved "Professor and the Madmen" and "Crack at the Edge of the World." However, I couldn't hang in with this one.
What I liked best about this book is a look at the times, society and politics of London, and the various organizations involved with furthering knowledge of the time. I think those that like this book would also like "Into Africa", the Stanely and Livingston story, by Martin Dugard. Maybe I shouldn't have expected that much from a book about the birth of geology, but this one was brutal! This is what Simon Winchester does best, biographies of people who's remarkable stories have been forgotten.


Not sanitized by hundreds of years of editing and revision, Winchester gives an excellent summary of an excellent mind and some wild luck overcoming traditional British society to actually achieve something remarkable. 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.
I'm always willing to go anywhere Winchester takes me- this time it's to his home, England. That said, if I had not already been familiar with the author and his tendency to go into intricate detail, I would have found this book a little slow.
Sed aliquam, urna ut sollicitudin molestie, lacus justo aliquam mauris, interdum aliquam sapien nisi cursus mauris. 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.
Winchester's reading is always full of vitality and good humor but here his voice actually catches with emotion as he describes the land William Smith first mapped so accurately. He does go in depth into the geology of England, and quite frankly it can be difficult to visualize what he tries to describe.


There is so much heart in this book that even dry geologic data is transformed into a fascinating narrative. But, the story itself is quite interesting so if you can look past the sometimes tedious details, there's a great story here. Donec scelerisque, urna id tincidunt ultrices, nisi nisl lacinia mi, at pellentesque enim mi eu felis.
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