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    Maskelyne et al
    From: George Huxtable
    Date: 2003 Jun 11, 19:42 +0100

    To my statement about the lunar-distance method having been chosen by
    Maskelyne, Fred Hebard quibbled-
    >Just to quibble that Mayer was also instrumental in instituting lunars.
    >  It wasn't only Maskelyne.
    It's a fair quibble, Fred. Maskelyne put lunar distances into a form which
    could be used in practice by mariners at sea. It wasn't an easy process,
    but it involved precomputed tables, which made it far easier than what had
    to be done before. That was Maskelyne's achievement, but it depended on an
    accurate theoretical basis for the position of the Moon. Mayer provided
    that, and showed how Maskelyne's human-computers could work out future Moon
    positions. Without Mayer's work, Maskelyne's method would not have been
    accurate enough for mariners to use at sea. Mayer's contribution was vital,
    and should be recognised.
    But Meyer's theory itself was based on many years of Moon observations,
    many from Halley. And Mayer's theory was a development from Euler, a Swiss,
    and his went back to Newton and Leibnitz. And their data came from Kepler
    and Tycho.
    As for lunars, we should remember the French, who were the first to offer
    predicted lunar distances (though not very usefully, being at 12-hour
    intervals) in their "Connaissance des Temps": the first voyage to try out
    lunars was made by LaCaille as early as 1751, without benefit of any
    precomputed tables.
    The man who knows most about the period on this list is Steven Wepster, who
    has written a dissertation on Mayer, and I hope he will correct anything I
    have got wrong.
    Each of these workers built on foundations provided by his predecessors,
    and helped by his contemporaries. This was a period when European nations
    were fighting colonial wars, mainly in North America, though Western Europe
    itself was relatively placid, apart from some Anglo-Dutch squabbles. Still,
    civilised communication prevailed between the 'savants' of the time; it's a
    lesson to us all.
    contact George Huxtable by email at george---.u-net.com, by phone at
    01865 820222 (from outside UK, +44 1865 820222), or by mail at 1 Sandy
    Lane, Southmoor, Abingdon, Oxon OX13 5HX, UK.

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