- Paperback: 208 pages
- Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1 edition (Nov. 5 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0007790163
- ISBN-13: 978-0007790166
- ASIN: 080271529X
- Product Dimensions: 11.7 x 1.7 x 18.8 cm
- Shipping Weight: 159 g
- Average Customer Review: 254 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #61,393 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time Paperback – Oct 30 2007
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“This is a gem of a book.” ―Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, New York Times
“A simple tale, brilliantly told.” ―Washington Post Book World
“As much a tale of intrigue as it is of science…A book full of gems for anyone interested in history, geography, astronomy, navigation, clockmaking, and--not the least--plain old human ambition and greed.” ―Philadelphia Inquirer
“Only someone with Dava Sobel's unusual background in both astronomy and psychology could have written it. Longitude is a wonderful story, wonderfully told.” ―Diane Ackerman, author of A Natural History of the Senses
“The marine chronometer is a glorious and fascinating object, but it is not a simple one, and its explanation calls for a writer as skilled with words as the watchmakers were with their tools; happily such a writer has been found in Dava Sobel.” ―Patrick O'Brian, author of The Commodore and the Aubrey/Maturin series
About the Author
Dava Sobel is the bestselling author of Longitude, Galileo's Daughter, and The Planets, coauthor of The Illustrated Longitude, and editor of Letters to Father. She lives in East Hampton, New York.
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We live in an age where we take for granted the accuracy of the inexpensive quartz watch and have almost constant access to the exact time through the internet or a GPS signal, and I did not realize how critical having access to an accurate chronometer (to keep track of time from the home port) was to determining one's longitude while navigating the big oceans far from land. The book also describes in much detail the competition between the clockmakers and the astronomers (i.e. between developing an accurate time piece vs developing an accurate model of the motion of the moon, planets and the stars) for finding a solution to the problem of measuring the passing of time, a competition which to a good extend brought self-thought working class inventors against the English educated upper class represented by the Royal Society.
Until I read this book I did not realize that the major driving force for developing astronomy during the 17th and 18th centuries was to find a solution to the "longitude problem" since it had such a major impact on navigation and the creation of empires. This by itself led to the creation of the Observatoire Astronomique of Paris in 1667 and not long after the Royal Observatory at Greenwich in 1675 when King Charles II charged John Flamsteed, the first royal astronomer, to "apply the most exact Care and Diligence of rectifying the Tables of the Motions of the Heavens, and the Places of the fixed stars, so as to find out the so-much desired Longitude at Sea, for perfecting the art of Navigation". The quote is from pp. 39-40 of the book.
So besides bringing to light the most interesting developments in clock making, the book brings a lot more in terms of the global historical perspective and the development of sciences from the time of Galileo to the early 19th century.
Just a thought --- Patrick Campbell ----- email@example.com
"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. I wish there were more illustrations addressing the workings of Harrison's clocks, but that's probably a subject for another book. I recommend "The Illustrated Longitude" to fans of John Harrison's work and early chronometers who will not have the opportunity to see these incredible instruments in person.
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