Anyone alive in the eighteenth century would have known that “the longitude problem” was once the thorniest scientific quandary of the day-and had been for centuries. Lacking the ability to measure their longitude, sailors during 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 believe a mechanical solution-a clock that would keep precise time at sea, something no clock had ever been ready 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, additionally it is an enchanting brief history of astronomy, navigation, and clockmaking, and opens a new window on our world.
The thorniest scientific problem of the eighteenth century was once how to decide longitude. Many thousands of lives had been lost at sea over the centuries as a result of the inability to decide an east-west position. This is the engrossing story of the clockmaker, John “Longitude” Harrison, who solved the problem that Newton and Galileo had failed to overcome, yet claimed only half the promised rich reward.
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