Winchester, Simon "The Map that Changed the World: A Tale of Rocks, Ruin and Redemption" - 2001
This was one of the most interesting scientific books I ever read. William Smith, an ordinary boy in the 18th century, discovers the history of our planet. He was the first to find that the earth is arranged in layers, he found fossils that were different from those in other areas, he detects that England has to have been under water once, he discovers the ice age. He made a geological map of England that looks very much like the one they still use today. Amazing. I loved to read the story of this ordinary guy who changed mapmaking forever, who discovered so much without ever having been educated that way. He laid the groundwork for so many other scientific discoveries that would change the world forever. This is a book everybody should read.
From the back cover:
"The fascinating story of William Smith, the orphaned son of an English country blacksmith, who became obsessed with creating the world's first geological map and ultimately became the father of modern geology."