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    Re: Maskelyne: Astronomer Royal
    From: Alexandre Eremenko
    Date: 2020 Mar 25, 20:54 +0000

    I also want to defend Maskelyne:
    I would certainly not call Maskelyne "a bureaucrat" or the position of 
    Astronomer Royal a bureaucratic/administrative position.
    Astronomer Royal is a research position and usually the best available researcher was appointed.
    Think of Flamsteed, Halley, Badley,  or J. B Airy (the list of Astronomers 
    Royal is available on Wikipedia).
    As an Astronomer Royal, Maskelyne did not decide or mandate what method navigators had to use.
    All his "wrongdoing" consists of being extremely slow and cautious in 
    recommending the award for Harrison.
    I suppose navigators were free to choose the most appropriate method themselves.
    Maskelyne's position was very natural under those circumstances.
    It frequently happen that the same problem has several solutions: one "mathematical", and
    another "hardware solution". It was natural for a astronomer/mathematician to trust the
    "mathematical solution". But indeed, it frequently happens in history that  "hardware solution" wins.
    As in my life time a "hardware solution" (navigation satellites) won over 
    "mathematical solution" (CelNav).
    But we don't blame people who developed CelNav, say in 1960s for not switching 
    to development of satellites:-)
    From: NavList@fer3.com [NavList@fer3.com] on behalf of Wolfgang K�berer [NoReply_Koberer@fer3.com]
    Sent: Wednesday, March 25, 2020 3:32 PM
    To: eremenko@math.purdue.edu
    Subject: [NavList] Re: Maskelyne: Astronomer Royal
    Dear all,
    although Frank is distancing himself a bit from the falsifying narrative of 
    Dava Sobel, he still is belittling Maskelyne as a �bureaucrat� who was 
    narrow-minded and looking for fame for himself.
    As for narrow-mindedness: none other than Newton ( a person not especially 
    known for being unable to think beyond his nose) had judged that 
    watches/clocks would not be able to help with the solution to the longitude 
    Apart from that Maskelyne was a civil servant (it may be a special American 
    angle to view these as �buraucrats�) who had to see to fulfilling the needs 
    of the state/country. It was fine to supply an explorer with a single 
    timekeeper but at the time (1765) the British navy had 266 ships. There was 
    simply no better way than to provide them with a mathematical solution/tables 
    after the basic problem � calculating the exact position of the moon in 
    advance � had been solved by Tobias Mayer in G�ttingen. That was a low cost 
    solution that could be put in place very soon. Just compare that to the 
    production of chronometers which was a cottage industry even in the late 19th 
    century (I recommend reading the relevant chapters of Betts� �Chronometers at 
    Greenwich" � expensive but worth it). So it is no surprise � and certainly 
    not due to Maskelyne�s �bureaucratic� stance that they were only a standard 
    issue in the British navy in the 1840s (N.A.M. Rodgers, The command of the 
    Ocean, p. 382).
    So the �Manhattan Project� fantasy at the end of Frank�s post is � like all 
    such fantasies - lacking insight into the real conditions and restraints at 
    the time.
    View and reply to this 

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