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William 'Strata' Smith (1769-1839), the Father of English Geology.

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I have often times wished for a mappe of England, coloured according to the colours of the earth; with markes of the fossils and minerals.   [John Aubrey, ‘The Natural History of Wiltshire’, (1691)]

Portrait of William Smith
Portrait of William Smith by Hugues Fourau, 1837 (GSL/POR/15)

In August 1815, William Smith (1769-1839) published what is acknowledged as the first geological map of a country ever produced, ‘A Delineation of the Strata of England and Wales, with part of Scotland; exhibiting the collieries and mines, the marshes and fen lands originally overflowed by the sea, and the varieties of soil according to the variations in the substrata, illustrated by the most descriptive names'. Although there were ‘geological’ maps in existence before this, these invariably only i​dentified rocks by types and are therefore more accurately described as ‘mineralogical’ maps. Smith’s innovation was to attempt to classify rocks according to age and manner of deposition – that is stratigraphically.

Bringing together the Society's rare and unique William Smith items, this exhibition is a celebration of his achievements in the field of geology which laid the basis of the science we know today – and led to him rightfully being known as ‘The Father of English Geology’.

Click on each thumbnail to find out more 

     Churchill thumb        Crag shell thumb       1815 map thumb 2    
& Early career
  The Map    
     London section chalk thumb    Scarborough thumb   Wollaston thumb     
of the Map
   Final years   Recognition