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    Re: Maskelyne and Harrison
    From: George Huxtable
    Date: 2008 Sep 9, 16:00 +0100

    Frank Reed wrote-
    |
    | It has been suggested occasionally that Dava Sobel (in her book
    "Longitude")
    | was responsible for inventing the story of Nevil Maskelyne's conflict with
    | John Harrison. Most recently, this arose from a reading of a late 19th
    | century article describing some of Maskelyne's notes.
    
    That interesting information, in
    http://articles.adsabs.harvard.edu/full/1911Obs....34..391.
     was brought to our attention in a note [6042] from Paul Hirose, and there
    was a response from me in [6051], in which I wrote-
    
    "... it's illuminating reading. It completely demolishes Sobel's contention
    that Maskelyne showed overt hostility to the chronometer method, and to
    Harrison. In his testimony in responding to questions (taking his own
    account of it at face vale, anyway), he comes across as scrupulously fair;
    indeed, more than fair, in avoiding any criticism of Harrison and his watch,
    and showing its performance, in the Barbados trial, in the most favourable
    light. Well worth reading."
    
    And in neither of those contributions was there the slightest suggestion
    that Sobel was the inventor of any such story about that conflict. She
    didn't need to invent it. It was publicly set out in pamphlets at the time.
    The bitter conflict between the two, and also the involvement of Mudge, was
    referred to in Gould, "The Marine Chronometer", back in 1922.
    
    My contribution was to point out, not that Sobel had invented the matter,
    but that the criticism of Harrison's conduct, by Sobel and earlier by
    others, was, to judge by Maskelyne's own account of his words to Parliament
    on the matter, completely unfair.
    
    So what misunderstanding was Frank putting right, then?
    
    He wrote
    
    "While Maskelyne's notes are certainly interesting, his testimony (which he
    describes in the notes quoted in the article) was well-known, but that
    testimony was by no means enough to persuade his critics at the time."
    
    But he wasn't writing it to persuade his critics. He was giving evidence, to
    Parliament, on a technical matter, and from his account was bending over
    backwards to be scrupulously fair to Harrison, in every respect. It may be,
    perhaps, that being written by Maskelyne's himself, it was a self-serving
    account to make him look reasonable, but his words to Parliament were on
    public record. It's impossible, from that account, to read into those words
    any bias or hostility toward Harrison; but that doesn't exclude bias and
    hostility being shown elsewhere on other occasions.
    
    Further on, Frank writes again-
    
    "My point here is that the conflict between Maskelyne and Harrison was not
    an invention of Sobel's."
    
    Who has been claiming that it was?
    
     George.
    
    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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