An exciting scientific adventure from the days of wooden ships and iron men, LONGITUDE is full of heroism and chicanery, brilliance and the absurd. It is also a captivating brief history of astronomy, navigation and clockmaking.
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....
An Amazing True Story
As a second generation watchmaker I grew up knowing the details of this amazing story. Or at least I thought I did. Reading Ms. Sobel's masterpiece helped me see the world of horology in an entirely new way. This history of the great scientists and mechanics who were involved in solving this great problem of finding longitude is filled with everything we could hope to find in bestselling fiction. Dirty dealing, back stabbing, industrial espionage, characters abound, everything you could ask for. But this amazing story could come off as a very dry technical treatise if not in Dava Sobel's capable hands. She helps you feel the desperation of people trapped aboard a lost ship. Feel the frustration of a ships captain weeks behind on a journey that was hopefully only going to take a few weeks. Most importantly she makes what is most technical fantastically understandable. You might think that this is only because I already have an intimate connection with the subject matter from my work. Not true! I have given away innumerable copies of this book over the years and have never known anyone who was not as completely delighted with it as I am. I truly hope it will give you as much enjoyment as it has me. And if you enjoy this audio version you might check out the "Illustrated Longitude" book. William J. H. Andrews pictures and drawings with captions bring the story to life ever so much more.