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Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time
Author: Dava Sobel

Cover: cover
Pages: 180
List Price: $11.95
Published by Viking Penguin
ISBN: 0140258795


While sailors can readily gauge latitude by the height of the sun or guiding stars above the horizon, the measurement of longitude bedeviled navigators for centuries, resulting in untold shipwrecks. Galileo, Isaac Newton and Edmund Halley entreated the moon and stars for help, but their astronomical methods failed. In 1714, England's Parliament offered 20,000 (equivalent to millions of dollars today) to anyone who could solve the problem. Self-educated English clockmaker John Harrison (1693-1776) found the answer by inventing a chronometer-a friction-free timepiece, impervious to pitch and roll, temperature and humidity-that would carry the true time from the home port to any destination. But Britain's Board of Longitude, a panel of scientists, naval officers and government officials, favored the astronomers over humble ``mechanics'' like Harrison, who received only a portion of the prize after decades of struggle. Yet his approach ultimately triumphed, enabling Britannia to rule the waves. In an enthralling gem of a book, former New York Times science reporter Sobel spins an amazing tale of political intrigue, foul play, scientific discovery and personal ambition.