Strata: William Smith’s Geological Maps

Univ. of Chicago. 2020. 256p. ed. by ed. by Oxford Univ. Museum of Natural History. ISBN 9780226754888. $65. REF
This beautiful volume highlights the work of William Smith (1769–1839), considered the father of English geology. Smith explored the land in England, digging into the ground, examining fossils, and cataloguing Earth’s history through its strata, or the layers of minerals and rock in the ground. In 1815, he published his preeminent work, the first geological map of England. Smith’s detailed, hand-colored map was so large (8’ 6” high x 6’ wide) that it had to be printed on 15 sheets of paper. This guide presents the entire map in four sections, dividing it into geographic regions: “Borders and the North,” “Wales and Central England,” “East Anglia and the South East,” and “The West.” Each section is complemented by tables of strata, cross-sections, fossil drawings, and photographs from the archives of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History and elsewhere. Essays between these sections examine Smith’s life and career and his contributions to numerous disciplines, including mining and cartography. His work as presented in this book offers a glimpse of ancient history and reminds us of the immensity of geological time. The book’s visual appeal distinguishes it—beautifully drawn, colorful maps and drawings are as much a work of art as of science.
VERDICT This impressive selection is highly recommended for geologists or for anyone with an interest in what lies beneath our feet.
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