Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time, by Dava Sobel


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 to the longitude problem had occupied scientists and their patrons for the better part of two centuries when, in 1714, England’s Parliament upped the ante by offering the equivalent of a king’s ransom to anyone whose method or device proved successful. The scientific establishment throughout Europe – from Galileo to Sir Isaac Newton – had mapped the heavens in both hemispheres in 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 40-year obsession with building his perfect timekeeper, known today as the chronometer. As the New York Times succinctly put it, “This is a gem of a book.”


Harrison, through his dogged determination and belief in his theory’s ultimate validity, changed the world. He is one of history’s exemplars of “thinking outside of the box.”


ISBN: 0802714625

Format: Hardcover, 192 pages

Pub. Date: September 2005

Publisher: Walker & Company

Price: $19.00

Other Formats: Paperback, Audiobook