Long illustrious career, recently (1831) awarded first ever Woolaston medal by Royal Society – currently building Somerset canal.
William Smith was born on March 23, 1769, into a family of small farmers. He received little formal education, but from an early age took an interest in exploring and collecting fossils in his native Oxfordshire in England. At the same time, he learned geometry, surveying, and mapping; at the age of eighteen he became an assistant surveyor, learning his trade from the master surveyor Edward Webb. Surveying required Smith to travel all over England; in 1794 he toured the entire country, and then he began to supervise the digging of the Somerset Canal in southwestern England, a job that lasted six years.