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Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius…

Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest… (original 1995; edition 2007)

by Dava Sobel

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6,474134592 (3.87)221
Title:Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time
Authors:Dava Sobel
Info:Walker & Company (2007), Paperback, 208 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time by Dava Sobel (1995)

  1. 40
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  3. 32
    The Island of the Day Before by Umberto Eco (polutropon)
    polutropon: Eco's book is a magical realist novel set in the Age of Exploration, in which the quest to reliably determine longitude at sea plays a pivotal role.
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    ALinNY458: A Short Brief Flash is a high readable book that I thought had some parallels to the story told in Dava Sobel's fine book.
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» See also 221 mentions

English (125)  Spanish (3)  German (2)  Dutch (2)  Danish (1)  All (133)
Showing 1-5 of 125 (next | show all)
The true story of a lone genius who solved the greatest scientific problem of his time.
  jhawn | Jul 31, 2017 |
I first read this book when it was published in the mid-1990s and have just re-read it to add more depth to my knowledge of ancient maps. It is an excellent book to read in conjunction with [b:A History of the World in Twelve Maps|17674972|A History of the World in Twelve Maps|Jerry Brotton|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1366557539s/17674972.jpg|21592191], especially for those seeking to understand why so many pre-18C regional and global maps misrepresented distances and relative sizes--it was the longitude problem.

While a position's latitude can be identified by anyone who understands that at the equator the sun, moon and planets pass almost directly overhead (with the Tropic of Cancer marking the extent of the sun's travels north, and the Tropic of Capricorn the sun's travels south), because "the zero-degree parallel of latitude is fixed by the laws of nature" (p. 4), longitudinal positions are far more difficult. Latitude is read by noting the length of the day or the height of the sun above the horizon. Longitude, however, is "tempered by time. To learn one's longitude at sea, one needs to know what time it is aboard ship and also the time at the home port or another place of known longitude--at that very same moment" (p. 4). This was no easy task on sailing ships in the days of pendulum clocks and hour glasses and why the problem of longitude was resolved earlier for land maps than those representing oceans and continents. The concept of latitude and longitude (a virtual net thrown over the world) was already known by Ptolemy's time (2C AD) who wrote his Geography listing 8,000 sites by their latitude and longitude. Whether maps accompanied this list or not is still debated by scholars, for the oldest map known based on Ptolemy's list dates back only to 1478.

This short but fact-filled work covers the fascinating story of mankind's attempts to resolve the longitude problem...that was to save countless maritime lives and demand adjustments to virtually every known map of the time. An afternoon's or evening's read and the knowledge can be yours, too.

A great book to read with an intelligent pre-teen with a globe (or even a tennis ball and felt-tip pen) at hand. ( )
  pbjwelch | Jul 25, 2017 |
While this isn't normally a book I would have picked up when I read those cover summaries, for some reason, this really caught my eye and sparked a genuine interest in this part of maritime history.

Historically accurate (I did a bit of research on a few points in the book), written nicely, and the fact that I've seen some of these clocks at The Clockmakers' Museum from my trip to London a few years back, definitely made it a page turner for me. ( )
  thursbest | Jul 17, 2017 |
While calculating latitude had historically come relatively easy to ancient scientists and navigators by measuring the height of the sun and stars, there was no comparatively straightforward way to determine longitude -- bad news for ship captains the world over. As recently as 1714, English Parliament offered a prize to anyone who could devise a method of calculating longitude to within a set degree of accuracy. Clockmaker John Harrison accepted the challenge and proceeded to devote the next four decades of his life to this achievement, despite obstacles placed in his path by England's astronomer royal and the Board of Longitude itself. This slim volume is an interesting history behind a scientific concept that we take for granted today. ( )
  ryner | May 23, 2017 |
Great book on John Harrison and his contribution to maritime history and time keeping. ( )
  Reddog48 | Apr 21, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 125 (next | show all)
Ms. Sobel, a former science reporter for The New York Times, confesses in her source notes that ''for a few months at the outset, I maintained the insane idea that I could write this book without traveling to England and seeing the timekeepers firsthand.'' Eventually she did visit the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, where the four clocks that James Harrison constructed are exhibited.
She writes, ''Coming face with these machines at last -- after having read countless accounts of their construction and trial, after having seen every detail of their insides and outsides in still and moving pictures -- reduced me to tears.''
Such is the eloquence of this gem of a book that it makes you understand exactly how she felt.
Here's a swell little book that tells an amazing story that is largely forgotten today but that deserves to be remembered.

It is the story of the problem of navigation at sea--which plagued ocean-going mariners for centuries--and how it was finally solved.

It is the story of how an unknown, uneducated and unheralded clockmaker solved the problem that had stumped some of the greatest scientific minds. And it is the story of how the Establishment of the 18th Century tried to block his solution.

The essential problem is this: In the middle of the ocean, how can you tell where you are? That is, how can you tell how far east or west of your starting point you have gone?

» Add other authors (22 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sobel, Davaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Andrewes, William J. H.main authorall editionsconfirmed
Armstrong, NeilForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dilla Martínez, XavierTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Reading, KateNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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When I'm playful I use the meridians of longitude and parallels of latitude for a seine, and drag the Atlantic Ocean for whales. --Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi
For my mother, Betty Gruber Sobel, a four-star navigator who can sail by the heavens but always drives by way of Canarsie.
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Once on a Wednesday excursion when I was a little girl, my father bought me a beaded wire ball that I loved.
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The history of portable time, or watch, and its important impact on navigating waters. John Harrison’s inventions of timepieces (H-1, H-2, H-3) leading up to the chronometer (H-4) in 1760 and its ability to chart longitude. John Harrison’s difficulties with the Board of Longitude in acknowledging his masterpiece.
GRÁÐUR lengdar er eftir Johan Harrison "sem varði fjörutíu árum í að smíða fullkominn tímamæli (sjóúr) og leysti eitt erfiðasta vandamál siglingafræðinnar á fyrri öldum," segir í kynningu. Sagt er frá hetjudáðum og klækjum, snilld og fáránleika, og mikilvægum þáttum í sögu stjörnufræði, siglingafræði og úrsmíða.
Bókafélagið Ölduslóð gefur bókina út. Elín Guðmundsdóttir íslenskaði. Bókin er 143 bls. Grafík prentaði. Leiðbeinandi verð: 3.280 kr.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0140258795, Paperback)

The thorniest scientific problem of the eighteenth century was how to determine longitude. Many thousands of lives had been lost at sea over the centuries due to the inability to determine an east-west position. This is the engrossing story of the clockmaker, John "Longitude" Harrison, who solved the problem that Newton and Galileo had failed to conquer, yet claimed only half the promised rich reward.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:57:49 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

During the great age of exploration, the "longitude problem" was the gravest of scientific challenges. Without the ability to determine longitude, sailors and their ships were lost at sea as soon as they lost sight of land. In 1714, desperate for a solution, England's Parliament offered 20,000 pounds (the equivalent of millions of dollars today) to anyone who could solve the problem. With all the skill and storytelling ability of a great novelist, Dava Sobel captures the dramatic story at the heart of this epic scientific quest.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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