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    Maskelyne and his "able computers"
    From: Frank Reed CT
    Date: 2004 Sep 21, 00:25 EDT
    Shall I add Maskelyne's paper from the Philosophical Transactions of 1764 describing how to clear a lunar to my web site?  It's interesting and even without the math it's entertaining. Maskelyne's got an almanac on his mind and writes:
      "the last rule for computing the distance of the Moon from a star, though only an approximation, being so very exact, seems particularly adapted for the construction of a nautical ephemeris, containing the distances of the Moon from the Sun and proper fixed stars ready calculated for the purpose of finding the longitude from the Moon by observations at sea; an assistance which, in an age abounding with so many able computers, mariners need not doubt they will be provided with, as soon as they manifest a proper disposition to make use of it".

    An age abounding with so many able computers... I love that line. Speaking of those able computers, there's a very fine article by Mary Croarken on the early history of the Nautical Almanac focusing on the "computers" --the people scattered across Britain whose job it was to perform by hand the calculations that were published in the almanac. Would you believe they had cheaters? This article is online at http://www.jmr.nmm.ac.uk/ . When you get to this web site, enter "longitude" in the search box. The paper is entitled "Providing Longitude for All". The direct URL was too long to include.

    Frank R
    [ ] Mystic, Connecticut
    [X] Chicago, Illinois
       
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