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    Re: Bauer's book, was Re: Newton and Halley
    From: Robert Eno
    Date: 2007 Nov 24, 00:51 -0500

    Wolfgang wrote:
    
    > Do I get that right: in a book that is meant to inform about sextant
    > maintenance and repair you may include factual errors in the section about
    > the history of the sextants and its forerunners and you are not to be
    > corrected because you are a practical sailor?
    >
    > That seems to be a strange notion as far as historical sciences are
    > concerned.
    
    Robert responds:
    
    Not at all Wolfgang but as near as I can reckon, Bauer's apparent
    shortcoming appears to be that he omitted certain details, skipped over some
    of the transitional instruments between the Kamal and the Nocturnal and
    included an illustration where the Davis quadrant was incorrectly depticted.
    So let's just pan the entire book shall we?
    
    To repeat what I said before: the book is about sextant maintenance and
    repair; not an exhaustive discourse on the history of the sextant. A scant
    20 out of 185 pages of the book is devoted to history. What would you expect
    to appear in this section? Bauer skipped over the top of the waves in
    covering the historical development of the sextant, including only what he
    considered to be the salient points. Did he get it all wrong?  You tell me.
    Bauer's book was proof-read and edited by some of the most expert and
    experienced navigators in the Maryland area, which, for those of you who are
    not familiar with United States, is pretty much the Mecca of
    astro-navigation in the USA. Most of them were (I say "were" because,
    regrettably, many of them have passed away) ex-Navy officers with decades of
    ocean-going experience as well as being historical scholars in their own
    right. Reference the late Paul Anderton of Annapolis, who knew more about
    navigation history and, incidentally, lunars, than anyone I ever met; not to
    mention several of Bauer's colleagues who were nautical museum personel and
    who would, presumably, know a few things about nautical history and the
    development of the sextant.
    
    So it boils down to one expert pitted against a platoon of others With all
    due respect to Nicolas, just because he says there are errors and omissions,
    does not necessarily mean that he is entirely correct in his assertions.
    What I took exception to, was his delivery. I won't beat a dead horse.
    Nicholas was a gentleman about it and I walk away with no feelings of ill
    will towards him.
    
    Several years ago, I submitted a historical paper for publication in a
    journal. One of the reviewers dismissed a few of my assertions out of hand
    and further indicated that one of my sources -- a rather large and
    comprehensive textbook -- was "all wrong".  I consulted 3 other historians
    for their opinion and to a man, they could not understand why the reviewer
    had made such a statement. So I challenged the reviewer, through the editor
    of the journal, to identify exactly where the text was "all wrong" and
    further pointed out that other historians were also curious to know.  I
    essentially told him, couched in polite language of course, "to put up or
    shut up". I got no response whatsover and the paper was published as it was
    written.
    
    The one lesson I learned from this is that many academics -- and I hasten to
    add that I am not at all referring to Nicolas here -- seem to derive a
    twisted pleasure from deconstructing the work of others in order to elevate
    their own status. Having myself been the recipient of this type of
    behaviour, I tend to bristle when I see it happening to friends.
    
    Wolfgang wrote:
    
    and you are not to be corrected because you are a practical sailor?
    
    Robert responds:
    
    That was not the point. Read my comments again. But if you must bring it up,
    I believe that it adds to a person's credibility if he has an equal footing
    in the real, practical world, as well as the world of academia. Once in a
    while, a person should leave the particle physics lab and go outside to
    experience the neutrinos first-hand.
    
    
    Robert
    
    
    
    
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