Longitude: the true story of a lone genius who solved the greatest scientific problem of his time by Dava Sobel. London: Fourth Estate. Review by Bill Palmer This was one of the most enjoyable books I had read in a long while. It is a short book of 175 pages in a good sized print. It gives an historically accurate account of the life of John Harrison and his quest to build a clock that would keep perfect time. John Harrison was born on 24 March 1693, the eldest of five children and died on 24 March 1776. His father seems to have been a carpenter so he must have gained some insight into working in wood when very young and he was determined enough to teach himself to read and write, reading Saunderson's Natural Philosophy whilst he was a teenager. He made his own notes on the book and set himself the task of building a pendulum clock before he was twenty. The book gives a brief historical account of the problems of measuring time and the significance of this in navigation. The British Admiralty offered a huge cash prize for the first person to determine longitude to a specified degree of accuracy. The rest of the book concerns Harrison's attempts to win this prize against all the odds and the incompetence and double-dealing of Admiralty officials. The book really is good reading. Originally published in STANT Journal
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