After being snubbed by England's Geological Society, this 19th-century surveyor and creator of the "Map That Changed the World" finally gets some due respect.
Yorkshire was the saving of 'Strata' Smith. And now the public can see how he changed the world. Michael Hickling reports.
At the lowest point in William's Smith's life in 1819 he jumped in a stagecoach in London and ended up in Northallerton. It was probably the best move he ever made. Smith was a self-made man, the eldest son of a country blacksmith in Oxfordshire, who was born with extraordinary talents. As a boy, Smith had a fascination with the rocks and the fossils which could be found locally.
He had little formal schooling but one of his many practical talents was the ability to sell himself. At the age of 18 he landed a job as a surveyor building a canal in Somerset.
As the navvies gouged out the waterway, Smith absorbed himself in the layers of strata that the picks and shovels were revealing in cross section. The science of geology was in its infancy and in those days it tended to be the province of gifted scientific amateurs who had sufficient private means to pursue their hobby.
Smith, humbly-born, possessed something better than money. His job gave him unique access to the material being studied and he had enormous ambition ...