A tenth-anniversary gift edition of the classic work traces the forty-year endeavor of John Harrison to safeguard financial interests and the lives of countless sailors by building the first chronometer, a mechanical device that would enable effective timekeeping on the sea. By the author of Galileo's Daughter.
"An amazing and fascinating story, a book full of gems for anyone interested in history, geography, astronomy, navigation, clockmaking, and--not the least--plain old human ambition and greed....As much a tale of intrigue as it is of science."
If you've grown up at a time when orbiting satellites were taken for granted, you'd probably not find reading a book about longitude an enticing prospect. But Sobel, an award-winning former science reporter for the New York Times who writes frequently for Audubon, Discover, LIFE, and Omni magazines, has transformed what could have been a dry subject into an interesting tale of scientific discovery. It is difficult to realize that a problem that can now be solved with a couple of cheap watches and a few simple calculations at one time appeared insurmountable. In 1714, the British Parliament offered a king's ransom of 20 million ($12 million in today's currency) to anyone who could solve the problem of how to measure longitude at sea. Sobel recounts clockmaker John Harrison's lifelong struggle to win this prize by developing a timepiece impervious to the pitch and roll of the sea. His clock, known today as the chronometer, was rejected by the Longitude Board, which favored a celestial solution. Despite some awkward writing, this brief, if at times sketchy, book is recommended for popular science collections. James Olson, Northeastern Illinois Univ. Lib., Chicago