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Longitude [Paperback]

Dava Sobel
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (246 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 15 2007
This edition of the book that launched the narrative nonfiction genre comes with a new introduction by Neil Armstrong and an eight-page colour section.

A "biography" of the chronometer, Longitude is also a compelling human drama that's full of heroism and chicanery. For centuries, scientists sought to tell time accurately at sea. Most believed the solution was celestial; John Harrison dared to believe he could build the perfect clock.

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Product Description

From Amazon

Dava Sobel's Longitude tells the story of how 18th-century scientist and clockmaker William Harrison solved one of the most perplexing problems of history--determining east-west location at sea. This lush, colorfully illustrated edition adds lots of pictures to the story, giving readers a more satisfying sense of the times, the players, and the puzzle. This was no obscure, curious difficulty--without longitude, ships often found themselves so far off course that sailors would starve or die of scurvy before they could reach port. When a nationally-sponsored contest offered a hefty cash prize to the person who could develop a method to accurately determine longitude, the race was on. In the end, the battle of accuracy--and wills--fought between Harrison and arch-rival Maskelyne was ruthless and dramatic, worthy of a Hollywood feature film. Longitude's story is surprising and fascinating, offering a window into the past, before Global Positioning Satellites made it look easy. --Therese Littleton --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

This look at the scientific quest to find a way for ships at sea to determine their longitude was a PW bestseller for eight weeks.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Once on a Wednesday excursion when I was a little girl, my father bought me a beaded wire ball that I loved. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
So as not to repeat myself and try the patience of those customers who have already read "Longitude", I will confine my comments to the additional material in the illustrated version. If you haven't read "Longitude", it's a great little book, and I refer you to reviews by myself and others on that book's page.
"The Illustrated Longitude" contains the entire original text of Dava Sobel's book, "Longitude", along with 178 illustrations provided by William J. H. Andrewes. Mr. Andrewes hosted the Longitude Symposium that inspired Dava Sobel's book and has himself published the annotated proceedings of the Symposium in his book entitled "The Quest for Longitude". The illustrations in this book consist of portraits of people and photographs of documents and instruments which are referenced in the text. The documents include maps, journals, pages of books, and official decrees. Nearly every major player in the Longitude drama is represented with at least one portrait. Most fascinating are the photographs of the time pieces, themselves. I found the illustrations to be only mildly interesting until I got to the discussion of John Harrison's longitude clocks. At this point, I was astonished to see how grand and beautiful H-1 was...and still is, and how small and elegant H-4 is in contrast. I found it difficult to picture Harrison's clocks while reading Dava Sobel's book, and the ability to see them in this illustrated version has left me even more impressed with Mr. Harrison's work. All of Harrison's clocks are represented with large color photographs, and many of the later copies of his works by Larcum Kendall, Thomas Mudge, John Arnold, and Thomas Earnshaw are also pictured.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The perfect gift for mariners Feb. 14 2002
By A Customer
This book is a beautiful coffee-table edition of the original book published in 1995. It's a historical account of the quest to solve the toughest scientific problem of the 17th and 18th centuries. It presents the story of John Harrison, who solved the problem by creating a timepiece that could keep precise time at sea - today known as the chronometer.
This 1998 edition contains reproductions of a large number of historical documents, charts, and portraits and includes an incredible collection of photos of timekeeping and navigational instruments. Together with a 4-video set of an expertly produced program by A&E, starring Jeremy Irons, this is a fabulous addition to any maritime books collections.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Longitude Oct. 6 2004
I found this book to be a great read and quite informative. The topic is not something that I usually concern myself with, but when I came across the book awhile back, I figured that someday I should read it; that day came, and I'm quite glad I did. It's made me aware of a man I was heretofore not familiar with--John Harrison--and the significance of his inventions. What he accomplished was truly revolutionary, and his story deserves to be known; this highly readable account apptly serves that purpose.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite enough depth or breadth for my taste. Jan. 31 2004
Longitude certainly isn't a bad story, just a somewhat constrained one. Within the scope of the book, the story is interesting and well researched. However, one should note that there is a bit more to the history of this solution for dependable navigation due to the problem of longitude than Dava Sobel adresses in this small history. This does not detract from the observation that Longitude is an entertaining and informative (and factually accurate) read nonetheless.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
For centuries, the inability to calculate longitude at sea doomed many a sailing vessel and its cargo. Unable to calculate their exact position, ships would run aground or miss their destinations entirely, leaving their crews to suffer and sometimes parish from starvation, scurvy, or infectious disease. By the 18th century, the lives and monies lost as a result of this inability to navigate properly had become such an obstacle to commerce and political ambitions that, in 1714, England's Parliament offered an extraordinary sum of money to anyone who could devise a method of reliably calculating longitude at sea. Dava Sobel's "Longitude" is the story of the approximately 60-year race to solve the longitude problem and its hero, a clockmaker from Yorkshire named John Harrison, who invented what we now call the chronometer. Ms. Sobel has written a short, very readable account of the technologies, personalities, and politics surrounding the quest for a solution to the longitude problem and its accompanying prize. The book owes its economy -only 180 pages- to the fact that the author doesn't attempt to place the longitude problem in a greater historical context or to say more than is necessary about the individuals who play a part in the story. "Longitude" concentrates on one story, which is the book's strength as well as a limitation. If the story intrigues you, there is more to be learned elsewhere about navigation at sea, the technology of the chronometer, John Harrison, and all the other grand personalities that inhabit this tale of discovery and the politics of science. But "Longitude" is a brisk, enjoyable account of the invention that solved a centuries-old problem and propelled Great Britain to global dominance.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it
I used to be a sailor....took longitude and latitude for granted,as I do so many extraordinary discoveries that give comfort to my life. A good read
Published 8 months ago by Sandra L. Lambert
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting series of anecdotes
I picked up this very little gem at a library book sale, so the first thing to note is that there are copies everywhere, so don't by any means bother to pay full price for one. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Rob Slaven
1.0 out of 5 stars Great Service and a Good Read
Great Service from the sender, quick and clean book.
Dava Sobel writing compelling story. This is a must read for all amateur back yard astronomers.
Published 19 months ago by R Weigand
4.0 out of 5 stars The book Longitude
It is a subject of great interest to me
The book is well written easily understood and explains
the complexity in solving the age old problem of... Read more
Published 21 months ago by Charles Osborn
5.0 out of 5 stars Longitude
The order arrived as predicted and is in the condition stated. I am more than pleased and happy to use the seller again.
Published on Oct. 20 2011 by Mr. Nathan Scott
3.0 out of 5 stars A short introduction about a unique part of nautical history
John Harrison, an English clock-maker devoted his life to the production of just 4 clocks. In doing so he solved the centuries old problem of captains determining their longitude... Read more
Published on June 26 2011 by Jeff Nijsse
4.0 out of 5 stars `The `longitude problem' was the thorniest dilemma of the 18th...
This is the story of John Harrison (1693-1776) a self-taught Yorkshire clockmaker, and his quest to claim the prize of £20,000 offered by the British Parliament in 1714 for solving... Read more
Published on March 6 2011 by Jennifer Cameron-Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars Educational and Entertaining
It's amazing how quickly we have advanced in technology. Longitude is now automatically calculated by GPS triangulating off of satellites. Read more
Published on Sept. 27 2009 by Bart Breen
4.0 out of 5 stars An epic 40 year struggle!
Dava Sobel, like Simon Winchester or Canada's Pierre Berton, has clearly mastered the art of writing history in a form that is not only informative but, perhaps more important, is... Read more
Published on Aug. 26 2007 by Paul Weiss
4.0 out of 5 stars Brief but enjoyable
This slim volume tells the story of John Harrison who, although untrained, built four revolutionary clocks that changed how ships navigate at sea. Read more
Published on July 15 2004 by ShyGuy1966
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