With a New Foreword by Neil Armstrong. On its 10th anniversary, a gift edition of this classic book, with a foreword by one of history's greatest explorers, the first man to walk on the Moon, and an 8-page color insert Anyone alive in the eighteenth century would have known that "the longitude problem" was the thorniest scientific dilemma of the day—and had been for centuries.Read more...
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With a New Foreword by Neil Armstrong. On its 10th anniversary, a gift edition of this classic book, with a foreword by one of history's greatest explorers, the first man to walk on the Moon, and an 8-page color insert Anyone alive in the eighteenth century would have known that "the longitude problem" was the thorniest scientific dilemma of the day—and had been for centuries. Lacking the ability to measure their longitude, sailors throughout the great ages of exploration had been literally lost at sea as soon as they lost sight of land. Thousands of lives, and the increasing fortunes of nations, hung on a resolution. The scientific establishment of Europe—from Galileo to Sir Isaac Newton—had mapped the heavens in both hemispheres in its certain pursuit 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 ever been able to do on land. Longitude is the dramatic human story of an epic scientific quest, and of Harrison's forty-year obsession with building his perfect timekeeper, known today as the chronometer. Full of heroism and chicanery, it is also a fascinating brief history of astronomy, navigation, and clockmaking, and opens a new window on our world. "The seas had gradually calmed, and a brisk breeze pushed the H.M.S. Centurion swiftly north.Ê But Commodore George Anson felt no joy at his progress, only grim despair. For the previous two months, the Centurion had been battered by brutal storms and high seas off Cape Horn. Of his small fleet, one ship was wrecked, the rest scattered, and his sailors were sick and dying of scurvy. Of those that remained alive, only a handful were healthy enough to handle a ship. With Chile under the control of his Spanish enemies, AnsonÕs only hope was to set a direct course for the tiny but welcoming Juan Fernandez Island. On May 24, 1741, Anson arrived at the correct latitude, but he did not see island. Was it weast or east? At the time, sailors had no way of accurately determining their longitude, so Anson had to settle for a coin flip. He started by searching west for a few days, but changed his mind and sailed east until he ran into the coast of Chile. At this point Anson realized his error and turned west again, reaching the island on June 9.Ê By the time he finally weighed anchor at Juan Fernandez, more than half the sailors on Centurion had died.Ê. Ever since reading this tale and many other others in Dava SobelÕs classic book Longitude, I have worked to bring these amazing stories to life in my Earth science class." —Science Scope Magazine, September, 2005.
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