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The Illustrated Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time [Paperback]

by Dava Sobel, William J. H. Andrewes
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (552 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 1, 2003 0802775934 978-0802775931
A fully illustrated edition of the international best-seller Longitude.

The Illustrated Longitude recounts in words and images the epic quest to solve the greatest scientific problem of the eighteenth and three prior centuries: determining how a captain could pinpoint his ship's location at sea. All too often throughout the ages of exploration, voyages ended in disaster when crew and cargo were either lost at sea or destroyed upon the rocks of an unexpected landfall. Thousands of lives and the fortunes of nations hung on a resolution to the longitude problem.

To encourage a solution, governments established prizes for anyone whose method or device proved successful. The largest reward of £20,000-- truly a king's ransom-- was offered by Britain's Parliament in 1714. The scientific establishment-- from Galileo to Sir Isaac Newton-- had been certain that a celestial answer would be found and invested untold effort in this pursuit. By contrast, John Harrison imagined and built the unimaginable: a clock that told perfect time at sea, known today as the chronometer. Harrison's trials and tribulations during his forty-year quest to win the prize are the culmination of this remarkable story.

The Illustrated Longitude brings a new and important dimension to Dava Sobel's celebrated story. It contains the entire original narrative of Longitude, redesigned to accompany 183 images chosen by William Andrewes-- from portraints of every important figure in the story to maps and diagrams, scientifc instruments, and John Harrison's remarkable sea clocks themselves. Andrewes's elegant captions and sidebars on scientific and historical events tell their own story of longitude, paralleling and illuminating Sobel's memorable tale.

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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Walker & Company (January 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802775934
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802775931
  • Product Dimensions: 9.9 x 9 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (552 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #430,282 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
215 of 225 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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149 of 156 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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39 of 40 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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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A really interesting read. September 3, 1999
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
If you never knew before what a major problem it was before the world knew how to measure longitude (and I certainly didn't), Dava Sobel tells of both the problem and the man who finally solved it in this easy-to-understand and interesting book. Meet John Harrison, the clockmaker/genius who fights the British scientific establishment to prove his method of measuring longitude does work. I found this book to be a quick, interesting read on a topic, and a man, most people don't know anything about, but should.
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37 of 39 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 Highly recommended
I was a little concerned that this might be one of those books that is interesting but a little "dry reading." Don't worry! It's fascinating. Read more
Published 1 day ago by Rick Lewis
5.0 out of 5 stars A clock like no other clock
Magellan would have given a boat load of gold and spices for a GPS. The early explorers knew how to determine latitude but longitude was a major problem. Read more
Published 6 days ago by Melvin L. Scott
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Book Explaining Longitude's History
This book is an amazing story, filled with many details on how the riddle of longitude was finally figured out. Read more
Published 11 days ago by Paul Hamby
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!!!
Dava Sobel does a masterful job telling the story of the evolution of navigation. She describes the challenges in determining one's longitude and the various ways that were... Read more
Published 15 days ago by D. Hall
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing story of human ingenuity
Sobel is an excellent story teller who is able to blend the very human with the scientific. She tells engagingly of the complexities of establishing longitude and the years of... Read more
Published 15 days ago by Nancy
5.0 out of 5 stars Time for Longitude
While latitudinal long-distance sailing has been with us since, at least, the time of the Vikings, the problem of longitude bedeviled more than one sailor. Read more
Published 25 days ago by N. Burlakoff
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read
Very good and interesting read. I had wanted to read this book for quite a while and I was not disappointed.
Published 29 days ago by MIVA
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent research and writing
If I am going to read nonfiction, I want it to be written so that I become immersed in a STORY, and "Longitude" achieves that admirably. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Donna S. Meredith
5.0 out of 5 stars A treasure
Beautiful, profound. A tribute to the best we mere humans can do intellectually, while not losing sight of doing what is right.
Published 1 month ago by Melissa T. Osborne
4.0 out of 5 stars fascinating
The highest recommendation I can give is that I recommend this book to others, which I do. We take watches and time-pieces for granted these days, but not long ago an accurate time... Read more
Published 2 months ago by GearGuy
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