Latitude: How American Astronomers Solved the Mystery of Variation

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9781557500168: Latitude: How American Astronomers Solved the Mystery of Variation
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The author chronicles the remarkable scientific story of America's first great contribution to astronomy--solving the problem of "variation" in latitude. (Science & Mathematics)

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From Library Journal:

Just as people invariably confuse latitude and longitude, there will no doubt be confusion between Dava Sobel's Longitude and the Carters' Latitude. Both are interesting reads on related but not the same topics. This is a nontechnical account of Seth Chandler's solution to the problem of the variation between observed and theoretical measurements of latitude, a problem that plagued European astronomers for decades. Thus, the solution in 1891 by an American who had no formal training in astronomy, facilitated by an inexpensive instrument he designed to detect the variation, stunned the European community. No doubt adding insult to injury, Chandler's findings were validated by another American, Simon Newcomb, at the U.S. Naval Observatory. Significant at the time, Chandler's solution has gone on to play an important role in space exploration and the development of global positioning systems (GPS). This interesting book also has the distinction of being written by a father-and-daughter team of scientists (Bill is a former research geodesist; Merri Sue is an astronomer with the U.S. Naval Observatory's National Earth Orientation Service). Recommended for larger public and academic history of science collections. James Olson, Northeastern Illinois Univ. Lib., Chicago
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist:

Readers who thrill to the unlikely triumphs of amateurs will greatly enjoy the compelling story of Seth Carlo Chandler Jr., a Boston actuary who astounded the scientific elite by solving one of the nineteenth-century's most intractable astronomical problems with an inexpensive instrument of his own design. In chronicling Chandler's improbable life, the Carters (father and daughter) illuminate a defining moment in American science, the moment when European-based astronomers first began to take American colleagues seriously. The Carters recognize in Chandler the ideal person to create that moment precisely because the surveying training he received as a young man empowered him with essential observational techniques without burdening him with theories of celestial mechanics that might have blinded him to the startling significance of discrepant personal and historical readings of longitude. In fact, those discrepancies led to his ingenious, dual-component model explaining oscillations in latitude ("Chandler's Wobble"). Throughout, the Carters allow nonspecialists to share in a rare intellectual adventure, punctuated with piquant personal episodes. Bryce Christensen
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