Longitude

Hello Everyone,

Today's I have something a little special in the form of a guest post by my dad!

Longitude

Summary:

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 Issac 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 a dramatic human story of an epic scientific quest and 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. (Summary and book cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Review:

I listened to an audiobook version of this book years ago and decided I would enjoy the print edition. I never bought it, but my daughter, host of this website, unknowingly gave me the 10th anniversary edition for Christmas. I immediately re-read it. 

Today if you want to know your location, you can pull out your phone and learn it within a few feet. Until the advent of GPS in 1995 (initially only for military use), the ships and aircraft of the world out of sight of land used substantially the same methods as were made possible by the invention of an accurate clock for use at sea by a self-trained carpenter in the late 18th century, John Harrison. Oversimplifying, for each second of time your navigation clock is off, your location will be off one quarter mile at the equator. (I confess my bias; I once trained in celestial navigation.) When Harrison accomplished what most of the scientists of the day thought was impossible and claimed the English prize worth approximately one million dollars today, he was met with denial. While he was ultimately awarded the cash, the full benefits of his achievement were not recognized until after his death. How many scientific discoveries today by outsiders are met by denial in the scientific establishment? This is the story of the resolution of the biggest enigma of the 17th and 18th centuries, the determination of longitude.  

Rating: 4 stars!

Who should read it? Anyone with interest in the science, history and politics of knowing where they are in this earth.

ABOUT THE GUEST POSTER

John Gaither.jpg

Name: John Gaither

Why did you choose this book?

I listened to an audiobook version of this book years ago and decided I  would enjoy the print edition. I never bought it, but my daughter, host of this website, unknowingly gave me the 10th anniversary edition for Christmas.  I immediately re-read it.

What is your favorite book(s)?

This is a surprisingly tough question.  In recent years, it would be a tie between "The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building the Brooklyn Bridge" by David McCullough  and "Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation" by John Gertner, but on a day-to-day basis, I am likely to be reading the latest Prey or Virgil Flowers mystery by John Sanford. I keep coming back to "The Complete Sherlock Holmes" by Arthur Conan Doyle because it is so comfortable to dip into when I can't make up my mind on what to read.  Reflecting into the past, I enjoyed all of the Robert Heinlein novels, particularly "Glory Road", which is sort of out of step with the rest of his work.  Interestingly, my daughter, host of this website, started reading Heinlein 40 years later, totally independent of me.  

What are you reading now or what do you plan to read next?

Now: "The Carnage Account" by Ben Lieberman

Next:  "The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution" by Walter Isaacson

Thank you again for sharing your thoughts dad and for Aaron recommending the book!