Book Spotlight–2/6/2011

Longitude by Dava Sobel

This short, satisfying historical account chronicles clock-maker John Harrison’s revolutionary approach to solving the uppermost dilemma of his time–determining longitude at sea.

In our era of global positioning satellites, this undoubtedly sounds like a banal topic. But Harrison pitted himself against such scientific legends as Edmond Halley (of comet fame) and Sir Isaac Newton (of apple fame), all racing to find a practical solution to “the longitude problem” and collect a monetary prize that would amount to millions of dollars today.

Longitude also provides a fascinating look into the elitist scientific establishment of the time and shows that men we lionize as scientific visionaries were more than happy to quash scientific progress when it threatened their own ideas.

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