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William Smith

Who was he?

Wikipedia: William Smith (23 March 1769 – 28 August 1839) was an English geologist, credited with creating the first nationwide geological map. He is known as the "Father of English Geology", although recognition was very slow in coming. At the time his map was first published he was overlooked by the scientific community; his relatively humble education and family connections preventing him from mixing easily in learned society. Consequently his work was plagiarised, he was financially ruined, and he spent time in debtors' prison. It was only much later in his life that Smith received recognition for his accomplishments.

Why was he in Bath?

From 1798 to 1810 he lived at Tucking Mill, just three miles from the centre of Bath in the Wellow valley (for more information see: William Smith at Tucking Mill).

In 1799 he visited 29, Great Pulteney Street, the house of two of his local supporters, the Reverends Benjamin Richardson and Joseph Townsend. There he dictated his 'Order of Strata..........'  dividing the succession from the Coal Measures to the Chalk into twenty-three named units.

Location of plaque
        at 29, Pulteney Street

William Smith plaque

The text reads

'In this house William Smith the father of English Geology dictated "The Order of the Strata" December 11th 1799'

The date on the plaque should read June 11th 1799, not December 11th. According to Benjamin Richardson (1758-1832), who was then present, Smith was in Bath for the annual meeting in June, 1799, of the Bath Agricultural Society; and the gathering at Townsend’s residence took place at that time, only a few weeks after the termination in April of Smith’s employment with the Somersetshire Coal Canal Company. (

Location map of  29, Great Pulteney Street:

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