A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Frank Reed
Date: 2017 Dec 27, 11:35 -0800
Bruce Pennino, you wrote:
"I’ve often wondered, is there an equivalent “History of Air Navigation” ?"
I know of one, and that's the exact title, too. It was written by Arthur J. Hughes and published in 1946. I have this volume in front of me though I have only read some sections. Here's a review of it from Nature shortly after it was published:
ALTHOUGH published in 1946, it appears from the preface that this book was completed in 1944. It was not possible, therefore, to give any information about war-time developments to aid air navigation, of which particulars at that time had not been released. The book was thus out of date before it was published. It is disappointing in other ways; illustrations of a great variety of instruments are given, but in many cases without sufficient description for those who are not familiar with them to understand how they are used. The reader will look in vain for any account of special methods of navigation adopted for polar flights. The chapter on ancient navigation has nothing to do with air navigation. Although aviation has a short history, developments -stimulated as they have been by two great wars- have been rapid. A fascinating story of the history of air navigation might have been written. This book seems to fall between two stools: it is not sufficiently technical and specialized for the expert, but it is too technical and assumes too much basic knowledge for the general reader.
That's probably too harsh. The reviewer is correct that this history essentially ends at the beginning of the Second World War. It would be nice to see a sequel! Since air navigation is a sideline, it probably could not justify today an entire history for itself (at least not as a stand-alone book). But there's certainly room here for an extended chapter or three in a more general "History of Celestial Navigation". By the way, I decided to spin this off under a new subject title since the topic of "air navigation" continues to grow in popularity, and the history of it deserves more "front page" discussion.
Also, for the record, Cotter's book, which is titled "History of Nautical Astronomy" could probably be titled "History of Celestial Navigation Theory and Mathematics". The name itself, nautical astronomy, was simply what people called "celestial navigation" before the 1920s.
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