Did you know that that you can tell which type of rock make up which layers of the earth by the fossils that are buried there? No, neither did we! Or rather we didn’t until we took our latest trip to the National Museum Cardiff and visited the wonderfully named Reading the Rocks: The Remarkable Maps of William Smith .
The geologists amongst you know Mr Smith for his he known as the father of the discipline but for the rest of you (including us until last Sunday) the blacksmith’s son from Oxfordshire had a lightbulb moment 200 years ago when he realised that a map showing where different rock layers came to the surface would be of great value.
His beautiful maps are now icons of geology and many of them are on display in Cardiff.
Smith’s story is somewhat of a sad one as despite his groundbreaking work it wasn’t until late in life that he was truly recognised for his maps and that was after going bankrupt and spending time in a debtors’ prison.
We hope though that he’s looking down from the great rock formation in the sky and smiling as people like us admire his creations.
And what admiration they deserve! They are beautiful works of art and show the minutest detail of British rocks and landscape.
Smith single handedly mapped hundreds of thousands of square kilometres of Britain so we felt it only right that we spent quite a while studying his work.
It wasn’t a chore though and we were so impressed we bought a replica of his greatest achievement A Delineation of the Strata of England and Wales, with part of Scotland in the museum gift shop afterwards!
You may think maps are not your thing but we’re confident this exhibition will change your mind. And remember, every day’s a school day!
Reading the Rocks: The Remarkable Maps of William Smith runs until 28 February at National Museum Cardiff, Cathays Park, Cardiff, CF10 3NP.