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    Re: Dava Sobel
    From: Herbert Prinz
    Date: 2006 May 2, 05:31 -0400

    Dr. Wolfgang K?berer wrote:
    >p. 96: "...a German mapmaker, Tobias Mayer,...worked in Nuremberg..."
    >To call Mayer a mapmaker is about the same as calling Churchill a writer: he
    >has done that, too, but his real profession and claim to fame lies
    >elsewhere: Mayer was at the time professor for physics, geography and
    >astronomy in G?ttingen. That would have been easy to look up, but for Sobel
    >he obviously was on Maskelyne's side and therefore may not have merited a
    >careful checking of facts.
    Sometimes I get the impression that Nuremberg is the only German town
    that the British and the Americans know. But Sobel's mistake is not
    nearly as ridiculous as Cotter's, when he speaks of  "Purbach and
    Regiomontanus - both of Nuremberg" (Hist. of Naut. Astr., p.21).
    Be that as it may, I disagree with the rest of your statement. On paper,
    Mayer was apparently professor of economy in Goettingen and it is thus
    not quite trivial to find out what he really taught. Granted, Forbes
    tells us in the D.S.B. and elsewhere. Was Mayer a mapmaker? Absolutely.
    Everything he ever did was driven by or related to map making. He
    researched longitude for the purpose of map making. And he made maps in
    order to find longitude (selenographic maps!). The repetition principle,
    for which he became famous, he had at first implemented in a surveying
    That's where the comparison is flawed: Churchill did not make politics
    because he wanted to write about it, but Mayer found longitude (via a
    lunar theory) because he wanted to draw maps. When you read Sobel's
    entire paragraph (ending on p. 97) in this light you have to largely
    agree with her.
    But hold it! Don't read the paragraph ALL the way to the end, lest you
    come to the bewildering statement that Mayer produced "the first set of
    lunar tables for the moon's location at twelve hour intervals". Sobel
    does not seem to understand the difference between tables and an ephemeris.
    Herbert Prinz

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