William Smith was born in 1769 in Churchill, where his father was a blacksmith. He attended the village school.
Legend has it that his interest in the landscape and geological enquiry was sparked by the echinoids ('poundstone' fossils) that he found in local fields.
Later, while surveying the Somerset Coal Canal in the 1790s, Smith noticed 'regularity in the direction and dip of the various strata in the hills...'
Observing that rock layers occurred in a a predictable pattern, he also noted that fossil assemblages could be used to order strata in terms of relative age.
This was his Principle of Faunal Succession.
In 1815 Smith published his hand-coloured geological map of England, Wales and part of Scotland, famously establishing the chronological order of rock layers in the United Kingdom.
This year is the bicentenary of this famous geological map and the Churchill & Sarsden Heritage Centre, in partnership with the
Oxford University Museum of Natural History,
is displaying a commemorative exhibition about William Smith's life and work -
together with audio recordings about the significance of his legacy.
Full details of William Smith's life and achievements can be found here.
The Rotunda Museum in Scarborough was partly designed and established by William Smith in 1829 and has a wonderful collection of his fossils.
In March 2014, the Natural History Museum in Oxford launched William Smith Online with digital images from their William Smith Collection, his biography, a William Smith blog and more.There are several sites in Churchill village that are connected to his life and a William Smith village map and trail is available by post (£2.00 +p&p). Please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Geological societies are always particularly interested to visit the village of Churchill and see where William Smith's love of landscape and fossils began.
Links to local societies can be found here.