The true Story of a lone genius who solved the greatest scientific problem of his time.

Longitude will be familiar to readers everywhere as Dava Sobel's brilliant No.1 best seller, the elegantly written and fascinating biography of a genius who solved the problem of how to measure longitude accurately. This illustrated edition, which includes a lot of new material, will delight all those who enjoyed Longitude, and want to know more, and is certain to win Sobel even more readers throughout the world.

The gate clock at the Royal Observatory

The Longitude Problem
The lines of latitude and longitude which criss-cross the globe had been in use since the cartographer and astronomer Ptolemy plotted them on his first world maps in the 2nd century AD. But while establishing latitude was simple enough, the measurement of longitude meridians was an entirely different matter. Put simply, for a navigator to be able to plot his position on the seas accurately, he had to be in two places at once to be able to tell the time at his starting position and at wherever he was on the ocean. In the era of pendulum clocks, so easily sent off-kilter by the motion of the ship, or by the temperature, such precision was out of the question. And the results were disastrous: mariners not only found themselves frequently lost at sea, but terrible catastrophes occurred as land suddenly loomed and ships ran aground. As the situation on the seas worsened, the British Parliament passed the Longitude Act of 1714, naming a prize equal to a king's ransom for a "Practicable and Useful" solution to the problem.

Enter John Harrison

English clock maker John Harrison,a mechanical genius who pioneered the science of portable precision timekeeping,devoted his life to the quest.He accomplished what Newton had deemed impossible: he invented a clock that would carry the true time from the home port to any remote corner of the world. Along the way, Harrison crossed swords with the leading lights of his day, in particular the Astronomer Royal Nevil Maskelyne, who employed a series of dirty tricks, to prevent Harrison from claiming his prize money, and who marshalled the forces of the establishment against him. Yet with no formal education or watch making training, Harrison constructed a series of virtually friction-free clocks,impervious to rust,and able to keep their moving parts perfectly balanced as the sea swelled about them. A triumph of vision over ignorance, ingenuity and endurance over jealousy and bigotry, John Harrison's story is one of the greatest in the history of technology. This beautifully illustrated and sumptuously produced edition of Sobel's engrossing account is a must for readers everywhere.

Further Reading

Longitude Dava Sobel





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