"The Map That Changed the World : William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology" by Simon Winchester. New York, HarperCollins, 2001
William Smith, while working as a coal miner in the early 19th century in England, learned from other experienced miners that the earth was arranged in predictable layers. Later while surveying routes for coal-barge-carrying canals, he remarked that those layers occurred in the same order all over England; moreover, they could be identified by the fossils they contained. Armed with this discovery, he then made it his life’s work to create the world’s first map of England’s rock layers, thus founding the science of geology.