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Sir David Attenborough to launch celebrations of 'The Map that Changed the World'

18 March 2015

On 23rd March, the Geological Society of London and partner organisations will launch the 200th anniversary celebrations of William Smith’s ‘Map that Changed the World.’

The celebrations will open at 16.30 with the unveiling of a Westminster City Council Green Plaque by Sir David Attenborough at Smith’s former residence, 15 Buckingham Street, London, followed by an evening reception.

Often called ‘the Father of English Geology’, William Smith (1769 – 1839) created the first ever nationwide geological map, showing the strata of England, Wales and part of Scotland. The story of the map’s creation was described by Simon Winchester in his 2001 book ‘The Map that Changed the World.’ A year long programme of events is planned to celebrate the map’s bicentenary.

‘Smith’s importance to the history of our science cannot be overstated’ says John Henry, Chair of the Geological Society’s History of Geology Group. ‘His map helped shape the economic and scientific development of Britain, and had a profound effect on future geological mapping.’

At 16.30 on March 23, Sir David Attenborough will unveil the plaque at 15 Buckingham Street, where Smith lived between 1804 and 1819. This will be followed by an evening event at the Geological Society from 17.30, where Sir David will speak about the significance of Smith’s work. There will also be an opportunity to view a rare, newly discovered first edition copy of Smith’s map, recently discovered in the Geological Society’s archives.

The event will also feature a reading from ‘Map’, a poetry anthology published by Worple Press to celebrate the map’s anniversary. Featuring contributions from poets including Sir Andrew Motion, Penelope Shuttle and Helen Mort, the collection is edited by Geological Society librarian Michael McKimm.

Westminster is rich in heritage, both in term of buildings and the people who have lived and worked in the area. Launched in 1991, the City Council’s Green Plaque Scheme draws attention to particular buildings in Westminster associated with people of renown who have made lasting contributions to society.

Notes for editors

1. Members of the press wishing to attend the plaque unveiling and/or evening event should contact, tel: 0207 432 0954/07980 946128

2. The full programme of bicentenary events can be found at

3. Further details of ‘Map: poems after William Smith’s Geological Map of 1815’ at

4. The Geological Society of London, founded 1807, is a learned and professional body of over 11,00 Earth scientists with a remit to investigate, interpret, discuss, inform and advise on the nature and processes of the Earth, their practical importance to humanity, and, in the interests of the public, to promote professional excellence. The Society offers advice to Parliament and Government, at individual and corporate levels. Registered Charity No. 210161.

5. More information on Westminster City Council’s Green Plaque Scheme can be found here: