The True Story of A Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time

Sobel, Dava

Book - 2007
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
Anyone alive in the eighteenth 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. One man, John Harrison, in complete opposition to the scientific community, 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 forty-year obsession with building his perfect timekeeper, known today as the chronometer. Full of heroism and chicanery, it is also a fascinating brief history of astronomy, navigation, and clockmaking, and opens a new window on our world.

Publisher: New York : Walker, 2007
ISBN: 080271529X
Branch Call Number: 526.62 S677L 2007
Characteristics: xiv, 184 p. :,col. ill., ports. ;,19 cm


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Sep 30, 2013
  • library1172 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

This book was an interesting and enjoyable read.

Mar 05, 2013
  • ClaireM_W rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

I honestly did not expect to enjoy this book, thinking it would merely be "good for me". What a pleasure to be so wrong! Wonderful, personal writing of a significant story. Bonus : now I understand about longitudes.

Nov 04, 2012
  • macierules rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

A good account of a fascinating story - wish it had been more compelling. I wish it was a novel.

Sep 05, 2012
  • johnami rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

A brief, but precise account of the search for and discovery of a method for measuring longitude. The portrait of John Harrison (24 March 1693 – 24 March 1776) who developed the instrument for the task, is fascinating. He was a driven, brilliant man, capable of conquering the most complex obstacles. Under-appreciated in his time, his obsessiveness and awkward communication skills did not help to advance his cause or his unique genius. Although a commonplace issue today, assessing longitude was once a bane to the shipping industry and truly a matter of life and death. Not surprisingly, politics and greed delayed the solution and the recognition John Harrison deserved during his lifetime.


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Jul 15, 2011
  • GBradburn rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Great pictures to go with the text overall but I would have liked to see greater detail in the images for some of the components that were specifically referenced.


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