The Map That Changed the World

  • by Simon Winchester
  • Narrated by Simon Winchester
  • 9 hrs and 59 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

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.

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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)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Who knew rocks could be so deceptive?

The story of the self educated man who made the first real geological map of Britain, and how he was ruined by the greed of those who sought the title of geologist without getting their hands dirty. I think, however, this might be improved by actually being able to see the maps discussed. It would be nice if one could actually get some of the illustrations or photos or whatever in the audible versions.
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- Jody R. Nathan

Quite a ripping yarn!

My first Winchester book, and it has led me to a happy and edifying series of nonfiction titles. I found it difficult to follow in print, but read aloud, it became so interesting that I've listened to it three times. So far. Each time another element becomes clearer, whether it's the class insouciance of hereditary privilege, or the riveting biography of Smith, or the extent of the changes wrought by Smith's three dimensional brilliance.

Winchester's vocabulary is extensive and humbling, and his reading is exemplary. I will probably listen again.
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- Katherine

Book Details

  • Release Date: 01-22-2004
  • Publisher: HarperAudio