Longitude

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With a new  Foreword by the celebrated astronaut Neil Armstrong.  'Sobel has done  the impossible and made horology sexy -- no mean feat' New Scientist   Anyone alive in the 18th 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 quest for a  solution had occupied scientists and their patrons for the better part  of two centuries when, in 1714, Parliament upped the ante by offering a  king's ransom (GBP20,000) to anyone whose method or device proved  successful.
Countless quacks weighed in with preposterous  suggestions.   The scientific establishment throughout 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.
Full of heroism and chicanery, brilliance and the  absurd, LONGITUDE is also a fascinating brief history of astronomy,  navigation and clockmaking.