I was deeply honoured when the Geological Society invited me to give the William Smith Lecture for 1970. It was an invitation rather easy to accept but when I contemplated the work of William Smith himself, I began to feel more and more inadequate for the task. What could a chemical-geologist say that might do honour to a man who was one who established geology as a rigorous science and who founded stratigraphy and geological mapping, the heart of all geology?
I think that as most of us grow a little older, we find that our new thoughts or the stage of thinking we have reached is often only that of workers long ago. For this reason when I pondered the subject of this lecture I looked a little at some of the writing of Smith himself and found again that my own present trend of thinking and plans for future working, were simply echoes from Smith. This man, who as Lyell states was ‘unassisted by advantage of wealth or station in society’ could have been the author of many parts of our present so-called ‘forward looks’.
I think it is perhaps justifiable here to quote a few of William Smith’s remarks from the 1815 memoir which accompanied his map of the strata of England:
“The wealth of a country primarily consists in the industry of its inhabitants, and in its vegetable and mineral productions; the application of the latter of which to the purposes of manufacture, within memory, has