12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
A fascinating story about a little known pioneer,
By A Customer
This review is from: The Map That Changed the World: The Tale of William Smith and the Birth of a Science (Hardcover)
Simon Winchester has found another neglected historical figure and woven a fascinating story around his life and achievements.I did not enjoy this book quite as much as "The Surgeon of Crowmarsh",but I learned something about geology in a very entertaining way.
William Smith was the son of an Oxfordshire village blacksmith. Such lowly beginnings did not prevent him from creating the first,huge geological map of England, Wales and part of Scotland. There is a reproduction of his map on the end papers of the book, opposite a modern version. Even a non-geologist like myself can see how broadly accurate Smith's observations were. That one man, walking or riding, could have discovered so much is both amazing and humbling. Luckily, he left a diary so we can follow his journeys.
I found the style of the book irritating in places. There are many, many "as we shall see" sentences, especially at the ends of chapters.Some of the modern maps could be improved. That of the Somerset Coal Canal appears to show a canal and a railway (not a branched canal) and Figure 10 shows the GWR line missing Radstock. "He managed to created a design" is presumably a word-processing error. And how does it make "good forensic sense" to have parallel canals? "Forensic" refers to legal processes.
But these are only niggles. I found the book difficult to put down and I have learned a little about geology and social history on the way.And, what a dreadful boarding school Mr. Winchester went to!