CBR13Bingo – Book Club (James Mustich’s 1000 Books to Read list)
A short history of a scientific problem being solved over the course of decades. One of the biggest problems in seafaring pre-1700 involved the very imprecise methods available for determining longitude. Latitude apparently is fairly easy because lines of latitude as concentric and consistent. Longitude is much more difficult because it requires information contrasted with a fixed point, something much more difficult to acquire in the middle of the ocean. Britain, certainly known for its navy, took on this problem in a robust manner after a shipwreck disaster in which some 2000 or so sailors and accompanying soldiers died right off the coast of England through a relatively minor navigation misjudgment. This led Parliament to enact a law and put up a prize that would allow longitude to carefully calculated.
This led to numerous possible solutions, some scientific, but unreliable (such as using tides or stars), and some both unreliable and unscientific (such as using “sympathy stones” and purposely injured dogs) and leading to the development of a specific kind of clock, that would be able to keep local Greenwich time accurately, and allow for the careful necessary calculations to determine longitude. I will be honest. I don’t fully understand how clocks do this, but I believe it.
This book is a small history and it’s quirky and funny at times, and also shows the intensity and passion of its small cast of characters.