The dramatic human story of an epic scientific quest and of one man's forty-year obsession to find a solution to the thorniest scientific dilemma of the day--"the longitude problem." 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. One man, John Harrison, in complete opposition to the scientific community, 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.
Describes the forty-year effort of John Harrison to invent the chronometer, the first instrument able to keep accurate time for navigational purposes
The dramatic human story of an epic scientific quest: the search for the solution of how to calculate longitude and the unlikely triumph of an English genius. With a Foreword by Neil Armstrong.
A Practical Method for Finding the Longitude and Latitude of a Ship at Sea, by Observations of the Moon
At the turn of the nineteenth century, even the most experienced mariners were still risking catastrophe when navigating the North American coastline, because they lacked accurate navigational charts. The various means available to chart makers of the era to measure longitude, both celestial and terrestrial, could be off by thousands of feet -- often deadly for ships. In 1807 the U. S. Coast Survey was created to map the coast accurately and reduce the costly and deadly toll of shipwrecks, a challenge that would take the better part of a century to overcome. This is the tale of discoveries made by American scientists as they worked to solve this life-threatening quandary and develop a precise method of measuring longitude. It recounts how the successful coupling of precision chronometers with the new electrical technology represented by Samuel Morse's telegraph produced the solution to the longitude problem. The use of the telegraph by scientists of the U.S Coast Survey to communicate time signals reduced the probable error in longitudinal measurement to less than ten feet. The "American method," as it was deemed, quickly revolutionized observational astronomy and every other branch of science that depended on recording the precise time of an event.