William Smith was a surveyer and civil engineer, but he is
best known for his work as a geologist. He is known as the founder
of stratigraphy the father of English geology, but he was
recognized for his work only late in life.
Working at Mearns Pit at High Littleton, part of the
Somerset coalfield, Smith took an interest in the inclination and
succession of strata and surmised that the pattern could be traced
eastward and northward across England. His subsequent work as an
surveyor's assistant and as an employee of the Somersetshire Coal
Canal Company, and later his travels in his private practice as an
engineer gave him opportunity to learn more. He was the first to
correlate each strata with the fossils that it contained, or as he
wrote, the “fossils peculiar to itself.” He published
the first large-scale geological map of Britain.
“Peculiarities of the strata” is a title of one
of Smith's illustrations, from which the whole of this poem
borrows names of strata and fossils and descriptions of materials
produced from the strata. Many of the names of the strata were
invented by Smith and are still in use today. The layered details
above represent Smith’s great breadth of geological
I have always been fascinated by glimpses of the masses that
underly the surface of this land on which we build and plant.
See also in The book of science: