Some time ago, while rambling on about the virtues of phonetic spelling, I mentioned the fact that the very rare name pronounced in England "Fanshaw" is actually spelled "Featherstonhaugh." Yesterday I came across George William Featherstonhaugh, scientist and diplomat. English-born, married in 1808 the daughter of a former New York City mayor, settled in Duanesburg, N.Y. Went into railroads, then back to England to talk to rail maven George "Rocket" Stephenson. Returned Stateside, took up rocks, became the first U.S. government geologist. Was sent to survey bits of Arkansas, Wisconsin, Illinois, Georgia and the Carolinas. Finally came to rest in 1844 as British consul in Le Havre, France. And who says we never traveled before package tours.
G.W.'s stone-chipping proclivities were stimulated during the trip to Jolly Olde. While visiting his folks in Scarborough, Yorkshire, he had met the famous William Smith, humble-beginnings canal surveyor who first noticed that the same fossils turned up in the same strata, making it easier to identify the strata (which matters when you're cutting cuttings). In 1815, after noting the lay of the land up and down the entire country, Smith produced his prizewinner: "Delineation of the Strata of England and Wales." Replete with illustrations of 21 sedimentary beds in glorious Technicolor, it was the first proper geology map and earned him the sobriquet "Strata" Smith.
This article was originally published with the title French Leave.