The Worlds First Geologic

John Cary, a highly regarded English cartographer, agreed to publish Smith's map in 1812. A topographical map was engraved, on top of which Smith added his geological information. The actual construction of the map was quite a task itself, involving 16 engraved plates and three years to accomplish. The data collection and assimilation of the information took Smith 14 years to complete. The completed map, A Delineation of the Strata of England and Wales, with Part of Scotland, was published in 1815 with a 50-page textual explanation.

The map was slightly larger than eight by six feet (2.4 by 1.8 m) with the scale being five miles (8 km) to one inch (2.54 cm). One striking feature was the color. Smith used a variety of shades to depict certain types of rock: gray for Tertiary outcrops, blue green for chalk, brown for coral rag and carstone, yellow for oolites, blue for lias, and red for red ground. Not only was the use of color original, but he colored the base of each rock formation darker than its top. Thus, if one stood back, an immediate pattern was apparent. This piece of work became a classic in cartography. Modern geological maps use the same principles and even the same color scheme that Smith used almost 200 years ago.

Four hundred copies were made, but they sold poorly, partly due to George Bellas Greenough, one of the original founders of the Geological Society of London, a small, elite club of rich intellectuals. Though Smith was hurt by the lack of inclusion in their society, in 1808 he had invited them to view his impressive fossil collection, which was carefully organized by chronological succession and beautifully displayed on a series of sloping shelves meant to represent the sequence of strata. The visit of the Geological Society was a disappointing one. Smith received neither the praise he deserved nor the invitation to join the Society that he so desperately craved. Little did he know that the president of the society was not only impressed but also jealous. Greenough was about to embark on a mission of scientific pilfering that would be personally and professionally catastrophic to Smith.

Greenough announced the intention of the Geological Society to publish a geologic map of England, similar to Smith's. Potential buyers of Smith's map decided to wait until Greenough's map was published rather than buy Smith's map. After all, Smith's did not have the backing of the Geological Society, and Greenough's promised to be cheaper. When the map did come out in 1819, it did not fare much bet ter than Smith's map, nor did it contain any new information. Later Greenough was forced to admit that he stole much of Smith's work in constructing his map. In a ridiculous effort to make amends, Greenough apologized and presented a copy of his map to Smith.

Financial troubles intensified, and Smith was forced to sell his extensive fossil collection to the British Museum (the present-day Natural History Museum of London). In hopes of earning a little money, Smith published Strata Identified by Organized Fossils (1816) and Stratigraphical System of Organized Fossils Part I (1817). The latter was a catalog of the collection now owned by the museum. Neither sold well, and he continued creating and publishing geologic maps of several counties in England (1819-24). He also released A Geological Section from London to Snowdon (1817), showing the relative thicknesses and arrangements of rocks. In 1819, unfortunately, his financial difficulties became too great. He was sent to debtor's prison for 11 weeks, during which time he lost his home and his few remaining personal belongings. He would have lost his papers and maps too, but an anonymous friend purchased and returned them to Smith. After his release, he gathered his sickly wife and his nephew and moved away from London, where he had been so horribly treated, into obscurity, where he remained for the next 12 years.

They traveled to Yorkshire, where Smith enjoyed lecturing on geology, but he had to give this up due to poor health. He settled in Scarborough from 1824 to 1828 and continued to study geology. He also designed a museum and helped with the town water supply.

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