As a young man, Henry Thomas De la Beche (1796–1855) participated in geology within elite gentlemanly societies. On field excursions—within England and beyond—he examined the natural landscape and recorded his observations in both narratives and illustrations. The origin of De la Beche’s geologic maps can be traced to 1821, when he mapped coastal France from St. Vaast to Fecamp; in 1822 he mapped south Pembrokeshire, Wales, using the recently published Ordnance maps (1:63,360). Of utmost importance to De la Beche was an accurate recording of factual observations in graphic form so that the maps would represent useful data in the future. De la Beche continued mapping in Jamaica (1824) and Devon’s Tor and Babbacombe bays (1827). In 1832, while mapping Devonshire, De la Beche’s personal finances worsened. He successfully petitioned the government to continue his mapping projects, proposing that his completed maps would be of national practical utility. Following the completed Devonshire maps, De la Beche leveraged the project to continue mapping other parts of the country. He became the first director of what would eventually develop into the British Geological Survey. In this position, De la Beche influenced mapping techniques while insisting upon consistency of results. Several men learned geological surveying under De la Beche and brought his methods to other countries. Since De la Beche selectively documented the geology he deemed important to observe, his geological maps serve as graphic data repositories of observations recorded during their construction. His surveying techniques also have enduring influence.

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