Tuesday, January 08, 2008
Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius That Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time by Dava Sobel
This little book was a book swap find that was a delightful way to fulfill one of last year's goals-- read more nonfiction.
I loved this book. Because it is set in the 1700s, mostly in England and involves science it manages to ramble through many of my favorites settings: the wacky Royal Society, pirate-ridden seas and old-timey political intrigue. The man who found "The Longitude," as it was called in the old days, was named John Harrison. His story is the kind Americans (even me!) like best: poor boy with big brains makes good. Not that it was easy, the race for the 20,000 pound prize for finding "a method to determine longitude to an accuracy of a half a degree of a great circle" took 40 years and was crazy vicious. Stargazers and tinkers (including Harrison, a clockmaker) chased each other, Captain Cook makes an appearance and Harrison's clocks still run today.
Edited to add: sorry about the crappy photo!