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An unprecedented need for a new source of mechanical power in 18th century England, capable of functioning at rates beyond horse-power capacity, was met by coal-fuelled atmospheric engines. They propelled the country into an industrial revolution. Economic force-exerted by big population changes greatly altered husbandry, industry, and transportation. Acts of Parliament relating to surveying and draining of lands, mines, and construction of roads and canals multiplied six-fold in the second half of the century.
A land drainer and mineral surveyor, in the course of canal-building in the east Somersetshire coal-field, discovered and then exploited the stratigraphical principle of natural order and regularity in fossil occurrence--each Class assigned to its peculiar Stratum (William Smith, 1796). He had employed the prime stratigraphical principle of order and regularity among the strata (drawing on colliers' lore and probably a published record), during underground surveys of the mines (1791-93). Seventy-two years earlier a wide-ranging account of the same coal-field had illustrated a definitive succession, strike, dip, subcrop, outcrop, concealed faulting and unconformity (John Strachey, 1719), and established by direct measurement underground that "the Strata lye shelving and regular, and ob erve a regular course." It codified the colliers' tradition. A century later this knowledge, unchanged in principle but enlarged in scope, achieved generality in the academic realm.
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