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Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time
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April 2019: History > Longitude:The True Story of a lone genius who solved the greatest scientific problem of his time by Dava Sobel 4 stars

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Rachel N. | 1431 comments The history of the quest to be able to determine longitude while at sea which would help avoid deadly accidents by sailors not knowing exactly where they were and crashing into shorelines. The English parliament issued a prize to whoever came up with a solution to the problem. There were two lines of main research into solving the problem, one involving mapping the moon and stars and one involving a clock that would work at sea. John Harrison spent 40 years perfecting a timepiece which would end up solving the problem.
I had no idea this had even been a problem. This book was fascinating though a bit short. It got me thinking about how today we take for granted having clocks and GPS to tell us our location. I also learned why the prime meridian runs through Greenwich which I always thought was an odd place for it to run through.


Karin | 6878 comments If you like this topic, you might want to read about Nathaniel Bowditch, who went on from this and was/is called the founder of modern navigation. The problem is that the only actual biography I read of him is a Newbery medal recipient for younger readers, Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, but I have googled him from time to time.

Or, if it's mathematicians in general you like, the novel Measuring the World is very good, and is based on the lives of two men, Gauss (great mathematician) and Humboldt--the latter did a number of things and was one of the first to propose human-based climate change (he also showed that things get hotter as you go deeper into the earth and various and sundry other things).


Barbara M (barbara-m) | 2149 comments Rachel N. wrote: "The history of the quest to be able to determine longitude while at sea which would help avoid deadly accidents by sailors not knowing exactly where they were and crashing into shorelines. The Engl..."

I was like you Rachel, I had no idea this was such a huge problem in navigation and was completely taken with this bit of history.


message 4: by Theresa (new)

Theresa | 6057 comments I have this somewhere on my shelves, and your review inspires me to search it out!


message 5: by KateNZ (new)

KateNZ | 2207 comments A gem of a book. As I said on MargieD’s review, I have the illustrated version which is stunning - a real ‘desert island’ book for me. I visited the Harrison clocks in Greenwich a few years ago - they are so very beautiful, especially 4...


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