Simon Winchester's The Map that Changed the World, published by Harper Collins in 2001, is about the life of William Smith, England's father of modern geology. Smith, from humble beginnings, noticed that rocks are found in layers. Then he took not of that fact that fossils in one layer were quite different from fossils in another layer. This discovery helped him trace where the rock layers went across England. He became obsessed with creating a colored geological map, showing the strata of rock across England. Once his great map was created and published in 1815, he became a victim of plagiarism, and was swindled out of the recognition due him by the social class structure still firmly in place at the time. His contribution to geology was finally recognized in 1831.
I enjoyed this book, but I realize that it might not be the first pick biography for everyone. I really was reading this while reading and planning out a year of geology all at the same time, so how radical Smith's discovery would have been at the time made perfect sense to me. Perhaps now my geology themed dreams will end, or at least the rocks and strata will be back ground material