By John Phillips
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print Publication Year:2011
Online Publication Date:September 2011
Original Publication Year:1844
Subjects: Geomorphology and physical geography , History of science
William Smith (1769–1839) was best known as the author of the Map of the Strata of England and Wales – indeed, he was known as 'Strata' Smith. His Memoirs, edited by his nephew John Phillips and published in 1844, tell the story of his life from his beginnings as a blacksmith's son in Oxfordshire to his geological work. Smith began as an assistant to a land surveyor and moved into mine-related projects, including excavations for canal-building. During the course of one such project he realised the significance of strata within layers of rock, and in subsequent surveys he could locate deposits of coal, iron and other minerals. Smith suffered throughout his life from financial problems which frustrated publication of his works; his map was published in 1815, but further works were never completed. Towards the end of his life, however, he finally received the scientific recognition that was his due.
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