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The Map That Changed the World: A Tale of Rocks, Ruin and Redemption by Simon Winchester

The Map That Changed the World: A Tale of Rocks, Ruin and Redemption

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Sue Baker's view...

This was first published in 2001 but I’ve included it here as it is one of the very best books that followed the Longitude method of science writing, homing in on one small step in history, showing how one man’s obsessive quest created the world’s first Geological map in 1815. The man was William Smith, the son of an Oxfordshire blacksmith, and in a story of many twists and seesawing fortunes, Simon Winchester shows how against all odds he surveyed England and created his map, one of the wonders of the age. If you didn’t think you were interested in geology, I guarantee you’ll be fascinated by the whole subject after reading The Map that Changed the World.

Comparison: The Floating Egg: Episodes in the Making of Geology by Roger Osborne

Who is Sue Baker


The Map That Changed the World: A Tale of Rocks, Ruin and Redemption by Simon Winchester

Following the hugely successful hardback, this extraordinary tale of the father of modern geology looks set to be the non fiction paperback for 2002. Hidden behind velvet curtains above a stairway in a house in London's Piccadilly is an enormous and beautiful hand-coloured map - the first geological map of anywhere in the world. Its maker was a farmer's son named William Smith.

Born in 1769 his life was beset by troubles: he was imprisoned for debt, turned out of his home, his work was plagiarised, his wife went insane and the scientific establishment shunned him. It was not until 1829, when a Yorkshire aristocrat recognised his genius that he was returned to London in triumph. The Map That Changed the World is his story.


A compelling human story -- Boston Sunday Herald Well-researched narrative -- BusinessWeek Winchester has once again captured the essence of persistence against odds resulting in achievement. --Library Journal (starred review) Smith's life provides a terrific plot to frame his contribution to science. Winchester's wonderful account does credit to it. --Publishers Weekly (*Starred Review*) Winchester brings Smith's struggle to life in clear and beautiful language. --New York Times Book Review A compelling human story --Boston Sunday Herald Smith s unsung life provides the perfect backdrop for yet another entertaining intellectual history. --Denver Post Winchester masterfully weaves a compelling history. --Newsday Well-researched narrative --BusinessWeek Smith's unsung life provides the perfect backdrop for yet another entertaining intellectual history. --Denver Post Winchester masterfully weaves a compelling history. --Newsday

About the Author

Simon Winchester

Simon Winchester was born and educated in England, has lived in Africa, India and Asia, and now lives in New York.

Having reported from almost everywhere during an award-winning twenty-year career as a Guardian foreign correspondent, he is currently the Asia-Pacific editor for Condé Nast Traveler and contributes to a number of American magazines, as well as to the Daily Telegraph, the Spectator and the BBC.

Simon Winchester's books include Outposts: Travels to the Remains of the British Empire; Korea: A Walk through the Land of Miracles; The Pacific; Pacific Nightmare, a fictional account of the aftermath of the Hong Kong hand-over; Prison Diary, Argentina, the story of three months spent in a Patagonian jail on spying charges during the Falklands war; The River at the Centre of the World - A Journey Up the Yangtze, Back in Chinese Time, The Surgeon of Crowthorne, The Fracture Zone and The Map That Changed the World.

Photograph © Marion Ettlinger

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Book Info

Publication date

4th July 2002


Simon Winchester

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Penguin Books Ltd


352 pages


Popular Science
eBook Favourites

Biography: historical, political & military
The Earth: natural history general
Cartography, map-making & projections
Historical geography



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