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Download The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology, by Simon Winchester Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (4,448 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Simon Winchester Narrator: Simon Winchester Publisher: HarperCollins Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: January 2004 ISBN: 9780060746070
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From the author of the bestselling The Professor and the Madman comes the fascinating story of the father of modern geology

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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Quotes & Awards

  • “Winchester brings Smith's struggle to life in clear and beautiful language.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Winchester masterfully weaves a compelling history.”

    Newsday

  • “Smith’s unsung life provides the perfect backdrop for yet another entertaining intellectual history.”

    Denver Post

  • “Well-researched narrative.”

    Businessweek

  • “With descriptive contemporary visitations to places significant to the story and well-chosen historical detail, he makes immediate not only the magnitude and elegance of Smith's accomplishment, but also the thrill of each of the moments of genius necessary to reach his ultimate conclusion. 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)

  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • One of the 2001 New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books for Nonfiction

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jennifer | 2/19/2014

    " Had bought this book for my scientifc husband to read and I picked it up, it was great. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Nancy | 2/18/2014

    " More book than story. Liked the 2 others better. I'll continue to read Simon's books because they are very interesting. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Chris | 2/13/2014

    " Great! Fascinating! For me, a great read because it is a fascinating biography as well as a history of scientific beginnings. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mad_Maudie | 2/2/2014

    " Leave it to Winchester to take a seemingly boring subject and give it life. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kathy Sullivan | 1/19/2014

    " The man who pioneered the science of geology and developed the first geologic map of Europe died penniless. The wealthy and well connected men of his day lifted his ideas and passed them off as their own. They couldn't allow a commoner to outdo them. The same thing happened to the man who perfected the compass. (Longitude, by Dave Sobel). How often does this happen? The man with the great idea ends up in debtors prison, while a man with connections makes his family fortune. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Allison Granger | 1/9/2014

    " good for geologists to read "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Ralph McEwen | 1/7/2014

    " A interesting story with lots of sidebar information. I still can not read a geological survey map though. I am glad that William Smith got the recognition he deserved but IMO he brought many of his problems down upon himself. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Meg | 12/9/2013

    " This has primed me to read 'Annals of the Former World.' "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Oswald | 11/25/2013

    " The story about an earthbound man and his map that truly changed the world. I love maps, so this book was semi-inspirational. It kinda dragged, but I love that it's about maps. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Theresa | 11/19/2013

    " A bit dry in many places but it seemed very thorough. If you are interested in history of science I highly recommend this. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ruth | 11/2/2013

    " Absolutely wonderful. Not for the scientist, but I'm not one. A nicely paced read, sympathetically wrought. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Granuaille | 10/5/2013

    " Brings geoloogy to life. However towards the end needed tighter editing. Nonetheless I would recommend it. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Rebecca | 6/8/2013

    " Interesting story, but a slow read. 3 stars for subject and interest. 2 stars for dense, chewy prose. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Susan | 5/10/2013

    " You can get the whole story of this book in the first few pages. After that is a very detailed history of early geology in England. While an overview of different types of stone is interesting, repeated, drawn out details are not. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Queenie | 5/7/2013

    " I remeber I could not put down this book. Simon Winchester's sympathetic story of William Smith's triumphs and trials was compelling reading. Fascinting infomation on the areas, and the geology, covered in Smith's making of his map ... which now hangs in .......... have to read it to find out! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Cal Roth | 4/7/2013

    " Fascinating account of how a science began. As someone who loves traveling the "blue highways" -- frequently alone -- I loved reading about Smith and his wandering about discovering the underlying strata of England and Wales. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Nigel Nicholson | 2/10/2013

    " A fascinating story of a man who against all odds created the cornerstone of geology. A visit to see the map Smith created at the Royal Geological.Society, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Dad | 12/28/2012

    " I was a little disappointed with this book. The subject could have been presented in a more interesting manner and the author could have loudly confirmed up front that he was an atheist instead of making comments throughout the book that became redundant and tiresome. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Joel Funderburg | 8/11/2012

    " A great introduction to the birth of geology and a reminder that the men that founded our principles of science were human, too. They lived lives, had vices and, unfortunately for William Smith, went to prison just like people of today. Academia also remains the same: people cheat and steal ideas. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 brian tanabe | 2/21/2012

    " This is the Winchester book that started it all for me. I've picked up most if not all Winchester books since and the Professor is my favorite. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Amy | 10/11/2011

    " excellent book about the start of geological science "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ty | 9/16/2011

    " Simon Winchester's done it again. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Conrad Haas | 8/9/2011

    " While I thoroughly enjoyed Simon Winchester's previous book, The Professor and the the Madman, this book did not hold my attention. Perhaps I found too difficult to read. Who knows but me. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Matt Heavner | 7/17/2011

    " Not quite my cup of tea. So the level of historic details was a bit overwhelming for me. I really enjoyed Winchester's other books, and this was quite similar -- I'd really recommend this if you are geologist. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Horton | 5/8/2011

    " Another Winchester masterpiece. Made me want to go out and start digging in the yard.
    Didja ever wonder where the name "Poundstone" came from? Read this book (hint: it has nothing to do with "pounding" stone). "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Nancy | 3/12/2011

    " More book than story. Liked the 2 others better. I'll continue to read Simon's books because they are very interesting. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 C | 2/12/2011

    " Winchester is a wonder writer. He gives you just enough background to appreciate the subject of the book, but doesn't overwhelm you with details. He also manages to create a sense of anticipation - you can't wait to find out what happens next. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Curlybookworm | 1/5/2011

    " A bit of a slog (not as good as "The Professor & the Madman"). I think it was a slim story that he tried to plump up. Still, I was interested in learning a little more about the establishment of geology. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Greg | 1/2/2011

    " An interesting review of one man's contribution to understanding the world. Unfortunately the author drops in some parallel story in the middle which really distracts from the focus of the story. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Nora | 12/7/2010

    " I am in the midst of this book. Started it yesterday and am over two-thirds of the way through. It reminds me of Latitude, it is a book about a common man of uncommon talent and determination struggling to make his dream a reality and in the process changing the world in which we live. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jessica | 12/6/2010

    " Interesting historical facts but a little dry. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lesa | 11/24/2010

    " Leave it to Winchester to take a seemingly boring subject and give it life. "

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