William Smith was the first man to realise that rock strata extended right across the country – that fossils found in Dorset were the same as those in Yorkshire because the rocks were of the same age. In 1797, he drew up a list of twenty-eight rock strata beneath the town of Bath from the chalk to the limestone beneath the coal. In 1801, he drew the first geological map of any country
and fourteen years later he published a detailed map, measuring 8 feet 6 inches by 6 feet, coloured with twenty different tints, of the rock structures from the Scottish border to the English Channel. He so believed in the significance of his work to the country’s economy, that he bankrupted himself for the sake of it, and spent ten weeks in a debtors’ prison.
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