Emily's Reviews > Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time

Longitude by Dava Sobel
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Jun 03, 2007

really liked it
bookshelves: non-fiction
Recommended for: History-of-science and gadget geeks
Read in April, 2006

To quote an esteemed LC history professor on the technical difficulties of pre-modern navigational technology: "Nowadays, you'd refer to that as being lost. But they actually thought they could get somewhere." Shortly after people discovered that the world was round and wanted to sail around it, they realized that they had no way of telling how far they'd gone and how close they were to where they wanted to be, as opposed to how close they were to the Bermuda Triangle, for example, or the giant pointy sneak-attack rocks that were about to sink their ship. The kingdoms of Enlightenment Europe were basically racing against each other to find a way to calculate longitude that worked better than eyeballing the north star with a sextant on a pitching deck, which pretty much didn't work at all. Longitude is the story of John Harrison, the man who invented the first clock accurate enough to keep time at sea, allowing navigators to know exactly where they were on an East-West scale. Harrison, and the reader, get sucked into a whirlpool of royal and scientific politics, which can get very dirty. Also has a cameo appearance by everyone's favorite benignly insane monarch, George III.
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message 1: by Melissa (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:17AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Melissa Can I borrow this from you when we're both in Oly? I've been wanting to read it since I heard it mentioned in a NY Times article.


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