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    Forthcoming talk on longitude in the 18th century
    From: UNK
    Date: 2011 Oct 24, 01:07 -0700

    NavList members may well be interested in a forthcoming talk by Dr Alexi Baker in the Bedford Room of the Senate House in central London at 5.15pm on Tuesday 1 November.

    The Latitude of the Search for the Longitude in 18th Century Britain

    In 1714, a Parliamentary Act established rewards of up to £20,000 for more accurate and reliable methods of finding the longitude at sea. Contrary to popular belief, this Act did not establish a ‘Board of Longitude’ that was to oversee British research, nor did the officials who it appointed behave negligently and cause said research to stall until the ascension of the brilliant clockmaker John Harrison.

    The Act was mainly intended to encourage the expansion and acceleration of existing efforts and named a number of experts and relevant officials as acceptable judges for the new rewards, i.e. the Commissioners of Longitude. These unsalaried officials were never intended to meet en masse or to be proactive, and competitors for the rewards were free to continue seeking advice and financial and logistical assistance elsewhere.

    When the Commissioners did begin to periodically assemble from at least 1737 and especially from the 1760s onwards, it was because they were redefining their legislated roles due to factors including the influence of dynamic individuals such as John Harrison and Nevil Maskelyne and likely trends in other sectors of the government. The British search for the longitude was relatively active, and exhibited a great deal of continuity, even before this transformation of the Commissioners from figureheads or bit players in the longitude story to actors occupying centre stage.

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