2015 GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA (1-4 November 2015)

Paper No. 1-4
Presentation Time: 9:05 AM


TORRENS, Hugh, William Smith blg, Keele University, Room 101, Staffordshire, ST5 5BG, United Kingdom, h.s.torrens@keele.ac.uk

Smith was first employed as a land surveyor. Then in 1793, he became, canal surveyor, and engineer, to the Somerset Coal Canal (SCC). These positions allowed him regular income, and to take out a mortgage on property near Bath, England. All suddenly changed, when he was dismissed, as surveyor, then as engineer, in 1799. He had now to find new means of support, to publish his geological revelations uncovered in Somerset. From 1796, he had a) drained land, for the chairman of the SCC, and immediately after dismissal, could generate a living from such work in the West Country. At Tytherton, Wilts, he encountered a new rock unit (Kellaways Rock) and met the agricultural improver, Thomas Coke of Norfolk, who was able to study Smith's skills. News of this competence passed through an agricultural community, desperate to increase food production, during the long war with France. Smith's drainage methods were now widely taken up, by the Dukes of Manchester and Bedford, in Bedfordshire, then by Coke and relatives, in Staffordshire and Norfolk, and then by Coke's tenants in Norfolk. b) Smith's engineering skills meant he was next in demand in attempts to keep the German Ocean (now North Sea) out of The Norfolk Broads. But wartime conditions were harsh, and bills often not paid. So Smith now tried careers as c) a consultant "mineral surveyor", or d) as author, on both Irrigation, and on Norfolk.Throughout this, Smith's attempts to finance and publish his geological discoveries, were thwarted, by English 'laissez-faire' policies, bankruptcies of others, and his millstone of a mortgage. This will survey Smith's complex, fluctuating fortunes over 1799 to 1820 (after he left his debtors prison in 1819). His 'knight in shining armour' is cartographer John Cary (1755–1835) who, in 1812, agreed to publish Smith's 'Geological' Map, thus doing by "the enterprise of a private tradesman..., [what] had been in vain expected from princely patronage and the sanction of national boards". In addition failed attempts to entice Smith to work in the US and Russia, will be described, and a record from Australia.