During the great ages of exploration, "the longitude problem" was the gravest of all scientific challenges. Lacking the ability to determine their longitude, sailors were literally lost at sea as soon as they lost sight of land. Ships ran aground on rocky shores; those traveling well-known routes were easy prey to pirates.
In 1714, England's Parliament offered a huge reward to anyone whose method of measuring longitude could be proven successful. The scientific establishment--from Galileo to Sir Isaac Newton--had mapped the heavens in its certainty of a celestial answer. In stark contrast, one man, John Harrison, dared to imagine a mechanical solution--a clock that would keep precise time at sea, something no clock had been able to do on land. And the race was on....
©2005 Dava Sobel; (P)2009 Random House
To really absorb this story I would recommend seeing the movie first, so you can put faces to the names in this great historical event. Dava's love of the subject is well written and read well. Hearing the prologue from Neil Armstrong about his love of the stars and his on quest to see the real clocks in England is thrilling in its self. I was a young teenager when he walked on the moon, and only know his famous words. If you have any maritime experience or any kind of navigational interest this is a must read for the knowledge it contains!
Longitude is a superb book about the quest to solve one of the most difficult scientific challenges of the 17th and 18th centuries, and one, moreover, that caused thousands of deaths.
Kate Reading's narration is accurate and clear, and lends itself well to the story.
I am an avid eclectic reader.
I had listened to a podcast of an author interview of Dava Sobel on Writers and Company from CBC radio. She was mostly talking about her interest in astronomy and how it led to writing about interesting people in astronomy history. This book is about the contest started by the British government to find an accurate way to determine longitude. They could already determine latitude. Too many ships were being lost and men lost so it was vital do find a better way to navigate the seas. Sobel tells the story of John Harrison and his clocks. Apparently at the time there were two methods being explored: the tracking of moon and stares and the method of time. As usual the two methods fought each other and sabotage one another so it makes for an interesting story. Both methods were used and still are used today even with the use of GPS. Neil Armstrong gave the opening which was very interesting. Kate Reading did a good job with the narration of the story. If you are interested in navigation, history or science this is a book for you.
Many years ago, I visited the Royal Observatory Greenwich and was fascinated by the exhibits of John Harrison's clocks and their importance to navigation. "Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time" tells the remarkable story of the clock's inventor, John Harrison. While the story is itself fascinating, Dava Sobel is a poor writer and the book reads something like a high school textbook. Fortunately, the book is short and the facts of Harrison's life carry the day. Unfortunately, the reader is so poor that she distracts from the book.
Absolutely! It is so well produced, especially now that Neil Armstrong has died. His introduction to this book is a treasure.
Sobel keeps the human story so interesting the science never gets in the way.
Both are marvelous!
Harrison the clock maker beats England's greatest astronomers to win the prize for discovering longitude.
Dava Sobel writes a fascinating story on whatever she decides to write about.
When I first got on my ship in the Navy, I was really interested in learning how a ship navigates at sea. So I made friends with the ship's navigators (Quartermasters) and they walked me through the different methods of navigation including the use of a chronometer to measure longitude. At the very end of the presentation the Quartermaster said, "And if all these don't work we have this new-fangled GPS system which measures latitude and longitude down to the second. We take the coordinates and plot them on this map over here to get our exact location." I looked at it and it was literally the size of a washing machine! That was in the mid-1980s. Now fast forward thirty plus years and you can open your smart-phone and do the same thing and more.
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