Simon Winchester was born and educated in England. He was a foreign correspondent for more than thirty years includng twelve years for the Guardian in Asia, reporting on the Hong Kong handover to China for the newspaper in 1997, and twenty years as the Asia editor for Conde Nast Traveler. He is the author of many highly acclaimed and bestsellng works of non-fiction. He now lives in Massachusetts.
Adult/High School-In The Professor and the Madman (HarperCollins, 1998), Winchester managed to turn the seemingly dull story of the genesis of a dictionary into an international bestseller. His new book is about the equally unglamorous subject of geology, but he explores far more than the scientific classification of rocks. Once again readers are treated to the captivating life story of an obscure, eccentric man who made, against all odds, a big difference. William Smith led the life of a Charles Dickens character, complete with debtor's prison, sinister aristocratic snobs, intellectual "pilferers," a mentally ill wife, and an understudy nephew (even more destitute than himself) who eventually became professor of geology at Oxford. Smith was a self-educated canal digger with a keen eye, limitless perseverance, and an insatiable curiosity about all things under the topsoil. He had ideas about stratification that no one had before, and he turned those ideas into a masterwork: the world's first true geologic map. His work had huge implications in numerous aspects of early 19th-century life, including religion, commerce, agriculture, politics, and science. Winchester's book has a few flaws: repetition, overstatement of his primary themes, several proofreading lapses (especially near the end). But for the most part, it is an engaging, lively story that will capture the interest of many teens, and not only those who maintain rock or fossil collections.-Robert Saunderson, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Winchester, whose previous effort was the bestseller The Professor and the Madman, tells the remarkable story of William Smith, whose geologically correct map of England and Wales, dated 1815, became the bedrock for the modern science of geology. Winchester's strength is his ability to meld into compelling narrative a host of literary conventions, such as foreshadowing and fictionalized, internal dialogue. With descriptive contemporary visitations to places significant to the story and well-chosen historical detail, he makes immediate not only the magnitude and elegance of Smith's accomplishment, but also the thrill of each of the moments of genius necessary to reach his ultimate conclusion. But intellectual discovery is only half this story. Winchester writes with verve and conviction when relating the class and cultural wars that enveloped Smith soon after the publication of his map. It was plagiarized, stolen through the intrigues and machinations of George Bellas Greenough, an immensely wealthy gentleman and a founding member of the Geological Society of London, which, in a spectacular embrace of injustice, initially denied Smith membership. After a brief incarceration in debtor's prison, Smith left London and its scientific circles, not returning until his reputation was resurrected years later, when he became the first recipient of the Wollastan Medal, geology's Nobel Prize. Smith's life provides a terrific plot to frame his contribution to science. Winchester's wonderful account does credit to it. 60 illus. not seen by PW. (Aug. 14) Forecast: HarperCollins will roll this out with the fanfare due an undoubted bestseller, including a nine-city author tour, 15-city NPR campaign and national advertising. The crowning touch, however, is the dust jacket, which unfolds into a full-color replica of the notable map. The first printing is 125,000. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Former Oxford geologist Winchester follows up the success of The Professor and the Madman with this story of canal digger William Smith, who first noticed that rocks come in layers with different fossils in each and then proceeded to map all of England geologically. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
"Smith's unsung life provides the perfect backdrop for yet another
entertaining intellectual history."--Denver Post
"Winchester masterfully weaves a compelling history."--Newsday
"A compelling human story"--Boston Sunday Herald
"Smith's life provides a terrific plot to frame his contribution to science. Winchester's wonderful account does credit to it."--Publishers Weekly (*Starred Review*)
"Winchester brings Smith's struggle to life in clear and beautiful language."--New York Times Book Review
"Winchester has once again captured the essence of persistence against odds resulting in achievement."--Library Journal (starred review)
Smith s unsung life provides the perfect backdrop for yet another entertaining intellectual history. --Denver Post
Winchester masterfully weaves a compelling history. --Newsday
"A compelling human story" -- Boston Sunday Herald
"Well-researched narrative" -- BusinessWeek