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Taking the Stars: Celestial Navigation from Argonauts to Astronauts Hardcover – November, 1998

ISBN-13: 978-1575240954 ISBN-10: 1575240955

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Peter Ifland has produced a wonderfully readable and remarkably thorough account of the history of sextants and other instruments designed for celestial navigation." -Deborah Jean Warner, Curator, Physical Sciences, National Museum of American History.

"[This] book is a tremendous addition to nautical history. . . . The experienced navigator will gain new insight and the novice will undoubtedly be awed by the beauty of the instruments and Ifland's lucid explanation of the process of navigating by the stars." -- (Twain Braden, Ocean Navigator)

From the Author

[Taking the Stars: Celestial Navigation from Argonauts to Astronauts] is written for anyone who has ever held a sextant in his or her hand, either on the water or in the air. My overt purpose is to record the history of the development of hand-held celestial navigation instruments, but I have also tried to convey some of the romance of these ingenious instruments that have taken sailors and aviators into the farthest reaches of the Earth and brought them safely home again. The challenge has been to bring something for everyone - from the rank beginner to the most experienced navigator, for the avid collector and for the expert historian and museum curator.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 222 pages
  • Publisher: Krieger Pub Co (November 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1575240955
  • ISBN-13: 978-1575240954
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 9 x 11.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,681,188 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Today the very idea of using a sextant seems crazy when you can just switch on your GPS and be told where on the planet you are. This book takes you through some of the scientific instruments used to find your position on the earth. The author has taken the time not only to display excellent photos of the instruments but also describes their use. If you have an interest in either astronomy, celestial navigation or even scientific instruments I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 30, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I have spent days savoring this delicious work. Ifland has set a new standard against which all subsequent instrument books must be judged. The illustrations are magnificent; the text is lucid and I particularly like the fact that, in many cases, instructions are given for actual use of the instrument being discussed. Thank you, Peter Ifland!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Wolfgang Koeberer on July 27, 2005
Format: Hardcover
There are a few books on instruments used for nautical astronomy that you must have if you are interested in this field: Mörzer Bruijns "The Cross Staff", Stimson " The Mariner`s Astrolabe", Albuquerque "Instruments of Navigation" and Cotter "A History of the Navigator`s Sextant". This last book - although full of facts - is sadly lacking in good illustrations. "Taking the Stars" has both: a thorough and detailed history of instruments used for making astronomical observations right up to the latest developments and beautiful illustrations that show in detail what the text is talking about. It is rather rare that one finds such a well informed text in a book which can easily pass as a "coffee table book". My first copy of this book was destroyed by water; I ordered a new copy the next day.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Harry Eagar VINE VOICE on June 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Centuries ago, Arab (or perhaps Chinese) mariners began using an instrument to help find their latitude, called a kamal (or in Chinese chhien hsing pan), which was nothing more complicated than a credit card-sized rectangle of wood or ivory.

The navigator held the kamal before him so that the bottom edge rested on the horizon and the top edge on a star. A string came out of the center of one of the flat sides of the card. The mariner took the string in his teeth and tied a knot to mark how far out he had to hold his kamal.

Meanwhile, Pacific Islanders were using a more sophisticated system, but one with less potential for improvement.

Trying to measure the angle of a star (or sun or moon) from a rolling deck was tricky, all the more so when it involved staring directly into the sun. The big breakthrough came in 1731 when an Englishman, John Hadley, proposed a "double reflecting" arrangement that used mirrors to bring the horizon together with the celestial target.

There followed some of the most beautifulo and efficient machines ever devised. Scores of them are pictured, most in color, in "Taking the Stars."

The book is co-published by The Mariners' Museum at Newport News, Va., where author Peter Ifland has donated his large collection.

In many ways, sextants (the favorite form of Hadley's invention) were the key instruments in the evolution of modern life.

A sextant had to resist corrosion, be strong and light and have extremely accurate measuring marks. Jesse Ramsden achieved fame with his "dividing engine" for marking the degrees of a circle, and his engine was then turned to a multitude of varieties of precision machine work for the Age of Industry.
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By Paul G. Brewer on August 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Although not cheap this book is worth every penny to anyone interested in the history of navigation and the navigators instruments themselves. lavishly illustrated with colour photographs and drawings the text is authorative and leaves little of the subject un covered.
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