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    Re: Nevil Maskelyne.
    From: Frank Reed CT
    Date: 2004 Jul 13, 17:58 EDT
    George H wrote:
    "He was vilified by Sobel, in her book "Longitude"."

    Vilified? That may be too strong.

    Be that as it may, it's a considerable flaw in an otherwise excellent book (excellent so long as you go into it understanding that it is intended for an educated, but non-technical audience). I would guess that nearly everyone on this list has read Sobel's "Longitude", but if any have not I strongly recommend it as an introduction to the history of finding longitude. It's a little book that makes a great "beach read". But bear in mind as you read it that Sobel makes the mistake of modern hindsight and treats "the machine", Harrison's chronometers, as the obvious solution to the problem of finding GMT at sea (and thus tends to dismiss Maskelyne's complaints as petty and personal rather than reasonable and rational). In its time, the machine solution was by no means obvious, and if George III himself had not been a clock fanatic, it is not at all clear that Harrison would have been awarded the final prize. And regardless of prize awards, chronometers were not truly practical for decades because they were rare and expensive while lunars, though used irregularly, were available to all who could afford a sextant and an almanac immediately. And this was largely thanks to Maskelyne's stubborn insistence that they were the way to go for the time being.

    Of Maskelyne's final resting place, George H wrote:
    "Not much to report back, of course, just a stone tomb in the churchyard shaded by a great gnarled yew, and a Latin plaque inside the old church. "

    Can you get a picture of that spot with the Moon rising over it? :-) Or is it surrounded by modern apartment buildings...

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