Republished to celebrate the 10th anniversary of this bestselling book, now with a new introduction by Neil Armstrong, 'Longitude' is the dramatic human story of an epic scientific quest: the search for the solution to how to calculate longitude and the unlikely triumph of an English genius. Anyone alive in the 18th-century would have known that ...
Republished to celebrate the 10th anniversary of this bestselling book, now with a new introduction by Neil Armstrong, 'Longitude' is the dramatic human story of an epic scientific quest: the search for the solution to how to calculate longitude and the unlikely triumph of an English genius. Anyone alive in the 18th-century would have known that 'the longitude problem' was the thorniest scientific dilemma of the day -- and had been for centuries. Lacking the ability to measure their longitude, sailors throughout the great ages of exploration had been literally lost at sea as soon as they lost sight of land. Thousands of lives, and the increasing fortunes of nations, hung on a resolution. The quest for a solution had occupied scientists and their patrons for the better part of two centuries when, in 1714, Parliament upped the ante by offering a king's ransom (GBP20,000) to anyone whose method or device proved successful. Countless quacks weighed in with preposterous suggestions. The scientific establishment throughout Europe -- from Galileo to Sir Isaac Newton -- had mapped the heavens in both hemispheres in its certain pursuit of a celestial answer. In stark contrast, one man, John Harrison, dared to imagine a mechanical solution. Full of heroism and chicanery, brilliance and the absurd, 'Longitude' is also a fascinating brief history of astronomy, navigation and clockmaking.
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Publishers Weekly, 1995-09-18 While sailors can readily gauge latitude by the height of the sun or guiding stars above the horizon, the measurement of longitude bedeviled navigators for centuries, resulting in untold shipwrecks. Galileo, Isaac Newton and Edmund Halley entreated the moon and stars for help, but their astronomical methods failed. In 1714, England's Parliament offered ś20,000 (equivalent to millions of dollars today) to anyone who could solve the problem. Self-educated English clockmaker John Harrison (1693-1776) found the answer by inventing a chronometeręa friction-free timepiece, impervious to pitch and roll, temperature and humidityęthat would carry the true time from the home port to any destination. But Britain's Board of Longitude, a panel of scientists, naval officers and government officials, favored the astronomers over humble ``mechanics'' like Harrison, who received only a portion of the prize after decades of struggle. Yet his approach ultimately triumphed, enabling Britannia to rule the waves. In an enthralling gem of a book, former New York Times science reporter Sobel spins an amazing tale of political intrigue, foul play, scientific discovery and personal ambition. BOMC and History Book Club selections. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Publishers Weekly, 1996-09-09 This look at the scientific quest to find a way for ships at sea to determine their longitude was a PW bestseller for eight weeks. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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