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    Re: Books about Bowditch
    From: Patrick Goold
    Date: 2010 Mar 15, 10:30 -0400
    Thanks for the warning about the errors in the Lapham book!  And for the Bowditch biography references.   It is more likely I will follow up first the Derek Howse that Brad Morris makes reference to.  Nevil Maskelyne has been someone I have wanted to find out more about every since I encountered him in Mason and Dixon (one of my all-time favorite novels).  The only other place I have read much about him is in Edwin Danson's Weighing the world: The Quest to Measure the Earth.  Do you have other Maskelyne recommendations?  


    On Mon, Mar 15, 2010 at 8:35 AM, Frank Reed <FrankReed@historicalatlas.com> wrote:

    Patrick Goold, you mentioned, "Carry on Mr. Bowditch". I enjoyed that book, too. It's a fun fictionalized biography. But beware: the accounts of the navigational advances made by Bowditch are not even close. There's a "eureka" moment in the book where he seems to have discovered the concept of lunars. It has him dancing about, waking the captain, and so on. But it wasn't that way at all. Such observations and the math used to process them had been well-known for 20 years by the time he invented (or re-invented) his interesting little mathematical trick. Bowditch didn't *write* the "New American Practical Navigator". He significantly revised Moore's "Practical Navigator". And he did a fine job, too. Of course, for a young audience, the fiction of a "eureka" moment is far more dramatic than "then he re-wrote an equation in a form that, while slightly longer, was generally easier to work". Equally problematic for a young audience was his career after his ocean voyages. He ran an insurance company for most of his life, doing math and science on the side for his own pleasure. Not exactly romantic! :-)

    There are a couple of other Bowditch biographies like "To Steer by the Stars" by Paul Rink. There's another, but the title escapes me. The only one that I would recommend is "Yankee Stargazer" by Berry, published in 1943. Despite the odd title, it's the best Bowditch biography I've read. From what I've been able to check from original sources, it's accurate, too.


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    Dr. Patrick Goold
    Department of Philosophy
    Virginia Wesleyan College
    Norfolk, VA 23502
    757 455 3357
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