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Longitude : the true story of a lone genius who solved the greatest scientific problem of his time
1995
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  Library Journal Review

If you've grown up at a time when orbiting satellites were taken for granted, you'd probably not find reading a book about longitude an enticing prospect. But Sobel, an award-winning former science reporter for the New York Times who writes frequently for Audubon, Discover, LIFE, and Omni magazines, has transformed what could have been a dry subject into an interesting tale of scientific discovery. It is difficult to realize that a problem that can now be solved with a couple of cheap watches and a few simple calculations at one time appeared insurmountable. In 1714, the British Parliament offered a king's ransom of £20 million ($12 million in today's currency) to anyone who could solve the problem of how to measure longitude at sea. Sobel recounts clockmaker John Harrison's lifelong struggle to win this prize by developing a timepiece impervious to the pitch and roll of the sea. His clock, known today as the chronometer, was rejected by the Longitude Board, which favored a celestial solution. Despite some awkward writing, this brief, if at times sketchy, book is recommended for popular science collections.‘James Olson, Northeastern Illinois Univ. Lib., Chicago (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

  Publishers Weekly Review

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
Summary
<p>Anyone alive in the eighteenth 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.</p> <p>The scientific establishment of 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--a clock that would keep precise time at sea, something no clock had ever been able to do on land. Longitude is the dramatic human story of an epic scientific quest, and of Harrison's forty-year obsession with building his perfect timekeeper, known today as the chronometer. Full of heroism and chicanery, it is also a fascinating brief history of astronomy, navigation, and clockmaking, and opens a new window on our world.</p>
Table of Contents
Acknowledgmentsp. vii
1.Imaginary Linesp. 1
2.The Sea Before Timep. 11
3.Adrift in a Clockwork Universep. 21
4.Time in a Bottlep. 34
5.Powder of Sympathyp. 41
6.The Prizep. 51
7.Cogmaker's Journalp. 61
8.The Grasshopper Goes to Seap. 74
9.Hands on Heaven's Clockp. 88
10.The Diamond Timekeeperp. 100
11.Trial by Fire and Waterp. 111
12.A Tale of Two Portraitsp. 126
13.The Second Voyage of Captain James Cookp. 138
14.The Mass Production of Geniusp. 152
15.In the Meridian Courtyardp. 165
Sourcesp. 177
Indexp. 181
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