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Longitude [Kindle Edition]

Dava Sobel
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (619 customer reviews)

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Print List Price: $14.00
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Book Description

Anyone alive in the eighteenth century would have known that "the longitude problem" was the thorniest scientific dilemma of the day-and had been for centuries. Lacking the ability to measure their longitude, sailors throughout the great ages of exploration had been literally lost at sea as soon as they lost sight of land. Thousands of lives, and the increasing fortunes of nations, hung on a resolution. The scientific establishment of Europe-from Galileo to Sir Isaac Newton-had mapped the heavens in both hemispheres in its certain pursuit of a celestial answer. In stark contrast, one man, John Harrison, dared to imagine a mechanical solution-a clock that would keep precise time at sea, something no clock had ever been able to do on land. Longitude is the dramatic human story of an epic scientific quest, and of Harrison's forty-year obsession with building his perfect timekeeper, known today as the chronometer. Full of heroism and chicanery, it is also a fascinating brief history of astronomy, navigation, and clockmaking, and opens a new window on our world.


Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Dava Sobel's Longitude tells the story of how 18th-century scientist and clockmaker William Harrison solved one of the most perplexing problems of history--determining east-west location at sea. This lush, colorfully illustrated edition adds lots of pictures to the story, giving readers a more satisfying sense of the times, the players, and the puzzle. This was no obscure, curious difficulty--without longitude, ships often found themselves so far off course that sailors would starve or die of scurvy before they could reach port. When a nationally-sponsored contest offered a hefty cash prize to the person who could develop a method to accurately determine longitude, the race was on. In the end, the battle of accuracy--and wills--fought between Harrison and arch-rival Maskelyne was ruthless and dramatic, worthy of a Hollywood feature film. Longitude's story is surprising and fascinating, offering a window into the past, before Global Positioning Satellites made it look easy. --Therese Littleton

From Publishers Weekly

This look at the scientific quest to find a way for ships at sea to determine their longitude was a PW bestseller for eight weeks.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 289 KB
  • Print Length: 191 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0802799671
  • Publisher: Walker Books; First Edition edition (July 5, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003WUYE66
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,262 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
234 of 244 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Simple guy solves enormous problem October 13, 2002
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you can't get Newton and Galileo to solve your scientific problems, who do you turn to? Well the English government turned to everyone, hoping that some budding scientist could figure out the problem of calculating Longitude at sea. They even offered a huge reward. Why was it important? Without precise longitude, there was no way to steer a ship with any precision. Thus English ships were being wrecked and precious cargo wasn't making its scheduled delivery.
The scientists worked and worked on the problem. Many men including Edmund Halley thought that by mapping the stars, one could use the night sky as a map at sea. Although he knew little about science, a simple clockmaker named John Harrison thought that well-built clock with a dual face would solve the problem. You get to guess which person was right.
Longitude is both a vibrant story of the pains of solving an important problem, and a biography of the man who solved it. I don't tend to read the subject of science all that much, because I find it dry, but not so with this book. Author Dava Sobel lends an understanding of the human element in science. That Harrison has to fight snobbery first and later jealousy demonstrates how ego and self-importance can get in the way of the most important problems facing human beings. Not only will you learn how average people can solve enormous tasks, but you'll nod as the familiar self-promoters try to take the credit.
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159 of 167 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read that improves on the original October 11, 1999
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Having bought and read "Longitude", the only lightly illustrated original hardback version, I wanted to know more about how the actual clocks worked, and I wanted to see them, without making a trans-Atlantic pilgrimage to Greenwich.
Hence, when I saw an illustrated version of "Longitude", I had to buy it. This book contains the original text, with no additions, except for the illustrations. The photographs are beautifully done, as is the printing.
My only hesitation in not awarding the book five stars is that I was hoping for one of two things; either an illustrated version of the original, with a couple of pictures of each chronometer, at a reasonable price, or a more detailed illustrated version, with more information on how the chronometers actually work. What we ended up with is a compromise. Beautiful pictures of the chronometers, but little extra detail of Harrison's marvelous inventions.
Still, an improvement on the original, which is an excellent book, one I have read several times. Highly recommended.
By the way, when I purchased this book, I donated my original version to the library.
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43 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great If You Can't See Harrison's Clocks in Person. April 1, 2004
Format:Paperback
So as not to repeat myself and try the patience of those customers who have already read "Longitude", I will confine my comments to the additional material in the illustrated version. If you haven't read "Longitude", it's a great little book, and I refer you to reviews by myself and others on that book's page.
"The Illustrated Longitude" contains the entire original text of Dava Sobel's book, "Longitude", along with 178 illustrations provided by William J. H. Andrewes. Mr. Andrewes hosted the Longitude Symposium that inspired Dava Sobel's book and has himself published the annotated proceedings of the Symposium in his book entitled "The Quest for Longitude". The illustrations in this book consist of portraits of people and photographs of documents and instruments which are referenced in the text. The documents include maps, journals, pages of books, and official decrees. Nearly every major player in the Longitude drama is represented with at least one portrait. Most fascinating are the photographs of the time pieces, themselves. I found the illustrations to be only mildly interesting until I got to the discussion of John Harrison's longitude clocks. At this point, I was astonished to see how grand and beautiful H-1 was...and still is, and how small and elegant H-4 is in contrast. I found it difficult to picture Harrison's clocks while reading Dava Sobel's book, and the ability to see them in this illustrated version has left me even more impressed with Mr. Harrison's work. All of Harrison's clocks are represented with large color photographs, and many of the later copies of his works by Larcum Kendall, Thomas Mudge, John Arnold, and Thomas Earnshaw are also pictured.
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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic, now beautifully illustrated June 6, 2000
Format:Hardcover
I originally read a library copy of "Longitude" back when it was published in 1995. But I hankered for a copy of my own. Recently I discovered this new illustrated version of the original and must say that it's a real find. The pictures really do help one understand better the magnitude of William Harrison's breakthrough discovery about how to use a very accurate timepiece (now called a "chronometer") to determine longitude and help ships avoid the tragedy of becoming lost with potentially tragic consequences. The text is not so technical to put off a non-expert. I'm sure one could learn more about the workings of the chronometer, but I suspect a more detailed explanation might have put it beyond the comprehension of many of us.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars As the son of a watchmaker with a love of precision and high...
As the son of a watchmaker with a love of precision and high performance machinery, I truly enjoyed this book. Read more
Published 2 days ago by Micky Finn
5.0 out of 5 stars The First Prize for Innovation
My interest in this book is not so much about John Harrison who I consider to be the archetype mechanical engineer but on the concept of creating a prize to solve a problem of... Read more
Published 6 days ago by Ben Bosma
3.0 out of 5 stars varying between brilliant and rhapsodic to dull and tedious
Fascinating tale of conflict between astronomers and clockmakers over the easiest, most accurate, and least expensive method of measuring longitude on the high seas. Read more
Published 8 days ago by j. emenhiser
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Well researched and a great read. Could have been a bit longer but very enjoyable and informative
Published 10 days ago by Dave McLeod
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Very informative
Published 19 days ago by Gus
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Item arrive in great condition (even better than expected) and in good time. Very satisfied!
Published 22 days ago by KEI
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Great story for teens.
Published 1 month ago by Jacqueline
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book! The author makes you feel like you're ...
Great book! The author makes you feel like you're on board with the ships crew! This is such an interesting look at history. Good clocks/watches are hard to come by!
Published 1 month ago by Brooks
3.0 out of 5 stars A technical puzzle that lasted for several generations
An interesting read for those who enjoy history and science. It's worth the time, but I would also understand that some people may not find it as captivating as other topics. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Ryan Fisher
5.0 out of 5 stars A Detailed and Fascinating Read
I have always been intrigued by accounts of early voyages. I have written a few articles myself about early map-making and early European travellers in the Far East, including... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Caroline Kennedy
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