And an angle from heaven did come down
Sunday 26 January 1997
The race to measure longitude - the lines girdling the globe along a north-south, "Chocolate Orange" axis - was a great drama of the early navigational age. It was "a daunting, multifaceted technological challenge ... (which) continued to elude the greatest scientific minds for more than two centuries," as William J H Andrewes, Curator of the Collection of Scientific Instruments at Harvard, explains. Without an accurate method for plotting their courses, ships were constantly disappearing. The whole colonial adventure was floundering at sea. In 1598, Philip III of Spain offered a 6,000-ducat pension to whomever might come up with a solution to the problem. The pension was still unclaimed in 1714, when Queen Anne's government put up a new pounds 20,000 reward.
Dava Sobel's Longitude, the story of John Harrison, the self-taught Yorkshire carpenter who invented the maritime clock and eventually won the jackpot, was the surprise smash bestseller in Britain and the US last year. It was inspired by the scholarly researches of Andrewes and others, now collected in The Quest for Longitude (Harvard, pounds 49.95). All you could ever want to know about celestial geometry, meridian transits, maps, compasses and the innards of clocks, wonderfully illustrated in colour and black-and-white.
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Reyhaneh Jabbari: Iran due to execute woman for murder of her alleged attempted rapist
- 2 Expert urges cat lovers to own just one animal each
- 3 Car tax disc changes: Two days to go - and they affect you much more than just not displaying a piece of paper
- 4 The Simpsons death: Creator Al Jean would 'kill himself' before character like Homer or Lisa
- 5 British man raped while urinating in bushes at Oktoberfest beer festival in Germany
The Simpsons death: Creator Al Jean would 'kill himself' before character like Homer or Lisa
Cilla, episode 3, ITV - review: Ed Stoppard steals the limelight as Beatles manager Brian Epstein
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon 2: The Green Legend will be Netflix's first original movie
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'
The Jungle Book: A tale as old as time
Isis, we are told, is a 'clear and dangerous threat to our way of life'. I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy it
Exclusive: 'Putin's Russia has been my biggest regret,' says Nato's outgoing Secretary General
'Women, walk wherever you want' posters taken down in Stamford Hill following 'unacceptable' signs separating men and women
There’s no excuse for Dave Lee Travis’s behaviour, but we need to keep a sense of proportion
Mark Reckless becomes second Tory MP to defect to Ukip in a month
Should gay sex be illegal? 16% of Britons think so
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