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Sep 17, 2005

The Map That Changed The World

Buffalo's Central Library has put on display its copy of William Smith's 1815 geological map of Great Britain. The rare map, one of only 40 hand-made copies that remain, was the first geological map of any country in the world. It has been called, "the map that changed the world" because its mapping of the earth's layers and fossils, is said to have influenced the work of Charles Darwin and the world's coal and oil industries. Smith, who eventually became known as the, "Father of English Geology" noticed layers in the rocks and that the fossils varied from layer to layer in the canals he was digging. His studies formed the foundation for a new chronology of the earth's history and provided a tool for detecting coal and oil reserves. Unforntunately, the Father of English Geology wound up in debtor's prison and was even homeless for a while. Years later the importance of his work was recognized and was recently the subject of a best selling book, by Simon Winchester.

Newsday reports that the exhibit, put together with the help of University at Buffalo scientists, has geologists from all over the country making plans to travel to Buffalo to view this map. The only other copy in the United States lies in the Library of Congress. The exhibit runs through the end of the year.