In 1714, the English Parliament announced a staggering reward to anyone who could present a successful method of measuring longitude at sea — and therefore prevent thousands of deaths from shipwreck and disease. Most applicants for the reward looked to astronomy, so the committee charged with ascertaining a winner was surprised to receive John Harrison’s solution. Harrison, an unknown clock-maker, claimed to have invented a maritime clock that would function better than the fickle clocks of the age, which often lost whole hours in short spans of time.
“Time is to clock as mind is to brain. The clock or watch somehow contains the time. And yet time refuses to be bottled up like a genie stuffed in a lamp.”
Dava Sobel is the author of non-fiction books including Longitude, Galileo’s Daughter, and The Planets. She has also worked as a science journalist, and has been published by Harvard Magazine, Audobon, and Science Digest.
Length: 175 pages
Set in: England
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