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    Re: Dava Sobel
    From: George Huxtable
    Date: 2006 Apr 28, 20:37 +0100

    About the loss of Shovell's fleet on the Scillies in 1707, Alex queried my statement-
    | > four ships piled up on the Scillies in the dark with the loss of 200
    and asked-
    | Two hudered or two thousand (as Sobel writes)?
    Sorry. That was finger-trouble on my part. I missed the final zero. That 
    horrific loss of life of 2000 was one of the facts that
    Sobel got right (if I didn't).
    I mentioned, about the outcry resulting from the Scillies disaster-
    | > which led indirectly to the Longitude Act and the Longitude Prize and
    | > then to the Nautical Almanac and to Harrison's chronometer.
    and Alex responded-
    | Do you really think that these things would not be invented without the
    | Longitude Act? Maybe 10 years later, at most:-)
    I agree. The chronometer was an idea whose time had come. Harrison tinkered 
    with several, very different, methods for solving the
    problem, and his main contribution was to show that it could be done. 
    Subsequent chronometers were developed along very different
    lines, and owed little to Harrison's prototypes.  The French in particular were very advanced.
    As for the Moon position computations, by Mayer and Euler, for the 
    lunar-distance method, those were not made with the aim of a
    reward from the Board of Longitude, though a small fraction of the prize went 
    in their direction. Maskelyne, the main protagonist
    for lunar distances, made no claim on the prize as far as I know.
    About the folk-tale about hanging a crew-member, Alex wrote-
    | You really consoled me:-) This hanging story, as told by Sobel, was too
    | disturbing... How about the murder of the admiral by a local woman?
    That also reads like a bit of folklore, to me. It seems a bit unlikely that of 
    the two survivors, the Admiral happened to be one, to
    be murdered by a local woman for his ring. On the other hand, no doubt when 
    all those bodies were washed ashore, they were
    thoroughly stripped and looted by the Scillonians. I have heard that they 
    behave somewhat similarly, to present-day tourists.
    contact George Huxtable at george@huxtable.u-net.com
    or at +44 1865 820222 (from UK, 01865 820222)
    or at 1 Sandy Lane, Southmoor, Abingdon, Oxon OX13 5HX, UK.

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