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Longitude

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So, in 1714 Parliamentary committee assembled to respond to its challenge, with such prominent experts as Sir Isaac Newton, by then a grand old man of seventy-two, and his friend Edmond Halley (one of the famous comet). Over the years, his chronometers were tested in actual ocean voyages, proving their merit, which should’ve settled the issue and won Harrison his prize money. As Sobel details, navigation at sea before the invention of marine chronometers was thwarted by the “longitude problem”. The book summarizes the situation and the journey of 18th century clockmaker John Harrison to building timepieces that could keep sufficiently accurate time (despite the jostling, temperature and humidity changes, etc.

Esta es su historia, la de él y la de otros tantos que quisieron encontrar una solución al problema.

In 1998, The Illustrated Longitude was published, supplementing the earlier text with 180 images of characters, events, instruments, maps and publications. But this is also a human interest story of an odd difficult man, a homespun insular genius, who faces the complex scientific society of eighteenth century England. Anyone alive in the 18th century would have known that ‘the longitude problem’ was the thorniest scientific dilemma of the day – and had been for centuries.

In the Longitude Act of 1714, the British Parliament offered a prize of 20,000 pounds (equivalent to several million dollars today) to anyone who found a "practicable and useful" means of determining longitude. The Illustrated Longitude,The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time by Dava Sobel and William J. He made numerous chronometers and many of them may be seen in the Royal Observatory and other places in England. In the thirty years Harrison was building his three clocks astronomers were busily cataloging stars and navigational instruments were vastly improving. Not helped, in the British fleet, by an apparent rule prohibiting common seamen from keeping tabs on the navigation themselves.It was Ptolemy in ‘ Geographia’, written in the 2nd century, who contributed the concept of a co-ordinate system based on the imaginary lines of latitude and longitude, for accurately plotting any spot on the surface of earth. By comparing the chronometer's time to local sun time, a navigator could precisely measure longitude.

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