- File Size: 1896 KB
- Print Length: 191 pages
- Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1 edition (July 5, 2010)
- Publication Date: July 5, 2010
- Sold by: Amazon.com Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B003WUYE66
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #37,874 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
|Digital List Price:||$12.80|
|Print List Price:||$16.00|
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Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time Kindle Edition
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|Length: 191 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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About the Author
Dana Sobel is the bestselling author of Longitude, Galileo's Daughter, The Planets, co-author of The Illustrated Longitude, and editor of Letters to Father. She lives in East Hampton, New York.
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After reading a book about Mason and Dixon and all of the incredibly (for me) complex math and astronomy involved, I was slow to begin this book. Author Dava Sobel, however, cuts through all the more complicated principles like a good pre-calculus teacher. I would even suggest this book could appeal to adventurous 8th graders. The history is impressive. The Harrison family were watchmakers, but as very precise and diligent watchmakers competitive with the Royal Society and haughty astronomers like Nevil Maskelyne. John Harrison had size, cost, material, temperature fluctuations, moisture, waves, and many more atmospheric obstacles to confront while those relying on lunar readings went much further to produce much less. For the record, I had never heard of John Harrison. His predecessors include Halley, Tycho Brahe, and Galileo, whose attempts to time the speed of light is briefly retold here.
This is summer reading, a hero's tale, good defeating bad, The Little Engine that Could. If you or your child is interested in sailing, navigation, astronomy, inventions, machining, or how the British came to rule the word for a time, this is a book to read and re-read.
The premise of using a clock to compute longitude is mentioned repeatedly through the first half of the book, but an explanation of the operating principal and technique is only finally hinted at in the later stages of the book. The idea is that at any instant one can correlate "local" time to some known "reference" time as it occurs at some specific reference location and compute the local angle of longitude in relation to the reference location. The clocks being discussed are the devices used to reliably transport the "reference" time for comparative use in other locales. I have been aware of the technique for a long while and it became a guessing game to anticipate when the idea was finally going to be presented to, and shared with, readers. I think that many readers will enjoy the book much more if the premise is described, in detail, in an earlier portion of the story so that it is more obvious why one may appreciate all the great efforts made in the field of horology to achieve a series of incremental advances in performance and reliability.
This book reads like a book report or a term paper rather than as a comprehensive book. It seems as if the author knows her subject well, but did not benefit from effective editing and/or insightful guidance regarding the perspective of a reader when formatting the story line into book form.
I am surprised that some other more satisfying explanation of the history and circumstances has not been offered as a replacement for this book and its best seller status.
The books paints the complex story of Harrison's Great achievements and does so in an easy to read format.
Top international reviews
However, if you are looking for an interesting, fast read about the problems of calculating the longitude of a point on earth and how these were eventually solved, you have come to the right place.
This is popular science-history - a tale of people and personalities as well as inventions and discoveries. Sobel's writing is accessible and her verve carries the reader along in the same way as reading a good novel. In just over 200 pages, there isn't much in the way of detail - but the reader does come away with a broad-brush overview of what the problem was, the reasons why it was so intractable, the various methods for solving it, and why the problem was solved in the way it was.
Two main camps developed - the lunar distance method, which required numerous measurements of the sky and a clear day, and the method using clocks. The human drama of the battle between these camps, and of the genius of John Harrison, working largely alone to create a workable and accurate solution through the creation and testing of what is now known as a chronometer was for me the most enjoyable aspect of this short but facinating book.
Add to that that this is also a brief history of navigation, astronomy and clockmaking and there was a lot here for me to learn - and what an enjyable way to learn it. I have learned much more about clocks and watches that i ever thought i would want to - but I am glad I did in the company of this great little book.
As others have pointed out some illustrations would have been helpful, but i understand this has been rectified in later editions
In opposition to Harrison the Rev Maskelyne appears a nasty and small-minded person, which given his work wandering up and down Scheahallion (Perthshire) to define the pull of gravity makes the history the more readable.
The events following -the work of Dent and particularly Gould's restoration of the clocks are of as great an interest as the story of Harrison's struggle.
An excellent book which ought to be taught in all schools. Would recommend.