28 March 2015

See the famous ‘map that changed the world’

March 25 

William Smith was ahead of his time. In the 1790s, Smith, an English surveyor and amateur fossil hunter with little formal education, was hired to survey possible canal routes across the country, a job that required a deep understanding of the rocks where digging might be necessary. In his work, he observed that different layers of rock held distinctive fossils in a pattern consistent across England and Wales. “Each stratum,” he wrote, “contained organized fossils peculiar to itself.” 

“He noticed that the rocks he was excavating were arranged in layers,” author Simon Winchester would later write. “More important, he could see quite clearly that the fossils found in one layer were very different from those found in another. And out of that realization came an epiphany: that by following the fossils, one could trace layers of rocks as they dipped and rose and fell — clear across England and, indeed, clear across the world.” 

The result would be “the map that changed the world,” as Winchester wrote in his best-selling 2001 book of the same name. 

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