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William Smith Bicentenary 2015: Visualising Landscapes & Geology, Past, Present & Future

07 - 28 October 2015
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Event type:
Lecture, Social event
Organised by:
University of Bristol, William Smith Bicentenary
Wills Memorial Building, University of Bristol
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The School of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol is planning a series of events to celebrate the bicentenary of the publication of William Smith's map.

Commemorations will explore Smith and his legacy, from the wider context of geological maps, scientific and cultural representations of landscapes, to modern geological mapping of other planets.

Events will include an exhibition and a series of high profile public lectures.

Events begin on 7 October with a public lecture given by Geologist and BBC Presenter, Professor Iain Stewart.

7 October 2015
Underground Britain: the story of what's under our feet, and why it matters

Professor Iain Stewart

During the great age of extraction, William Smith’s ground-breaking mapping revealed the order of Britain’s geological basement. Two centuries on, as we enter a new age of insertion (for shale gas, geothermal exploration, carbon storage, and nuclear waste disposal), the British public are confronted anew with the unfamiliar subsurface. So, what exactly do they think lies beneath their feet?


14 October 2015
William Smith and his map that changed the world: an evening with Simon Winchester

Simon Winchester

The heroic contributions of the all-but-forgotten 19th century geological visionary William Smith have helped to change all our lives, as well as to transform and enrich the world economies. With his single-handed creation of the first-ever geologic map of Britain, two centuries ago this year, he transformed a calling, previously the monopoly of the leisured aristocracy, into the people’s science.  His own personal saga of ruin and redemption is also a parable of our times - a reminder of how one man can make a difference that will echo down the ages.  Simon Winchester will reflect on the curious saga of how he happened upon Smith’s remarkable life, and the extraordinary story that his research uncovered.


21 October 2015
Geological Mapping of Mars with Orbiters and the Curiosity Rover

Professor John Grotzinger

The Mars Science Laboratory Mission – with its Curiosity rover – seeks to establish what elements were available to support micribial habitability, if life ever arose on Mars. These measurements are most valuable when placed in a broader geologic framework of ancient environments provided by mapping, and understanding petrogenesis – both of parent igneous rocks and derived sedimentary materials.


28 October 2015
William Smith, fossils and the British landscape

Professor Richard Fortey

William Smith’s map was not just a geological achievement: it changed the perception of the British Landscape, and paved the way for focussing on stratigraphy as a key piece of evidence for evolutionary change. Smith himself sought recognition for his practical contribution towards mining and engineering, but his legacy endures also in the way we “read” the landscape, and is enshrined in debates about how the sequence of fossils can be related to evolutionary narratives. 


Further information and free tickets for all events visit the Bristol University website


William Smith Bicentenary

More events celebrating the Bicentenary of William Smith's map

Convenor Contact

Claudia Hildebrandt

University of Bristol

Dr Lisa Hill

University of Bristol