Today I go back to book that I read a couple of years ago. Whilst browsing my bookshelves I came upon it again, started reading and got stuck. What a brilliant interesting story about the old „longitude problem“ which was one of the most difficult scientific dilemma at the time – for centuries! Without the ability to measure their longitude, sailors were basically lost at sea for centuries the minute the lost sight of the land. Until then, only longitude was used, with a little glancing at the stars.
From Galileo to Newton were trying to solve this thorny problem but it was a guy who nobody had heard of named John Harrison who came up with a mechanical solution that would be able to keep precise time at sea, something that no clock was able to do even on land. „Longitude“ is a fascinating story about the scientific quest and Harrison’s personal obsession that took him 40 years to find this perfect timekeeper that we now call chronometer.
This book gives us a glimpse into the fascinating history of astronomy, mechanics and navigation that literally opened the world to us, saved thousands of lives and tremendously increased the wealth of various nations.
Despite it’s brevity, Longitude is a really engaging well written book. Sobel writes in a way that makes science and math accessible to the general reader.
Complement „Longitude“ with Andrea Wulf’s „Alexander von Humboldt und die Erfindung der Natur„.