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Longitude

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the 18th-century search for ways to calculate longitude at sea - how far east or west a ship was - to make voyages across oceans safer and faster.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the search for Longitude while at sea. Following efforts by other maritime nations, the British Government passed the Longitude Act in 1714 to reward anyone who devised reliable means for ships to determine their longitude at sea. Mariners could already calculate how far they were north or south, the Latitude, using the Pole Star, but voyaging across the Atlantic to the Caribbean was much less predictable as navigators could not be sure how far east or west they were, a particular problem when heading for islands. It took fifty years of individual genius and collaboration in Britain and across Europe, among astronomers, clock makers, mathematicians and sailors, for the problem to be resolved.

With

Rebekah Higgitt
Principal Curator of Science at National Museums Scotland

Jim Bennett
Keeper Emeritus at the Science Museum

And

Simon Schaffer
Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Available now

50 minutes

Last on

Thu 13 May 2021 21:30

LINKS AND FURTHER READING

CONTRIBUTORS

Simon Schaffer at the University of Cambridge

Rebekah Higgitt at National Museums Scotland

Jim Bennett at the Science Museum


READING LIST

William J. H. Andrewes (ed.), The Quest for Longitude (Harvard University Press, 1996)

Jim Bennett, Navigation: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2017)

Richard Dunn and Rebekah Higgitt, Finding Longitude: How Ships, Clocks and Stars Helped Solve the Longitude Problem (Collins, 2014)

Richard Dunn and Rebekah Higgitt, Ships, Clocks and Stars: The Quest for Longitude (Harper Design, 2014)

Richard Dunn and Rebekah Higgitt, Navigational Enterprises in Europe and its Empires 1730-1850 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016)

Paul Glennie and Nigel Thrift, Shaping the Day: A History of Timekeeping in England and Wales 1300-1800 (Oxford University Press, 2009)

Derek Howse, Greenwich Time and the Discovery of Longitude (Oxford University Press, 1980)

Derek Howse, Nevil Maskelyne: The Seaman’s Astronomer (Cambridge University Press, 1989)

Humphrey Quill, John Harrison: The Man who Found Longitude (John Baker, 1966)


RELATED LINKS

Longitude Essays – University of Cambridge Digital Library

Royal Greenwich Observatory Archives – University of Cambridge Digital Library

Longitude - Wikipedia

Broadcasts

  • Thu 13 May 2021 09:00
  • Thu 13 May 2021 21:30

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