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Cambridge University: The Magna Carta of scientific maps

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One of the most important maps of the UK ever made – described as the ‘Magna Carta of geology’ – is to go on permanent public display in Cambridge after being restored to its former glory.

William Smith’s 1815 Geological Map of England and Wales, which measures 8.5ft x 6ft, demonstrated for the first time the geology of the UK and was the culmination of years of work by Smith, who was shunned by the scientific community for many years and ended up in debtors’ prison. Today, exactly 200 years since its first publication, a copy of Smith’s map – rediscovered after more than a century in a museum box – will go on public display at the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences. Aside from a copy held at The Geological Society in London, the Cambridge map is believed to be the only such map on public display anywhere in the world.