Smith, William, 1769–1839, English geologist. Through direct observation as a canal-site surveyor, Smith made a systematic study of the geological strata of England and identified the fossils peculiar to each layer. He thereby introduced the method of estimating, from the fossils present, the age of geological formations. His large (81/2 ft × 6 ft/2.6 m × 1.8 m) and accurate geological map, titled A Delineation of the Strata of England and Wales with Part of Scotland (1815), was one of the first of its kind and was followed by similar maps of English counties. Smith is widely known as the father of English stratigraphic geology and field paleontology.
See S. Winchester, The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology (2001).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
More on William Smith from Fact Monster:
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Geology and Oceanography: Biographies