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    Nevil Maskelyne, by Howse, was:Re: Books about Bowditch
    From: George Huxtable
    Date: 2010 Mar 15, 16:06 -0000

    There seems to be a split discussion here between marine historical fiction and serious biography.
    
    I can recommend Derek Howse's biography, "Nevel Maskelyne, the seaman's 
    astronomer", and anyone seeing it for sale at a reasonable
    price should snap it up. But at its current price, it's for a richer man than 
    me. Mine came when it was much cheaper, but that took
    much searching and waiting.
    
    I don't know why it has got so expensive, except for the laws of supply and 
    demand, but the cheapest copy I can see at present is
    over $200. Not that it's an antique rarity; far from it, published 1989. Nor 
    that it's particularly weighty, at 280 pages. Nor does
    it have any fancy colour illustrations. At that price, I would read it in a library.
    
    I suppose that there must have been initially only a small print-run, because 
    it went quickly out of print. Why CUP haven't cashed
    in with a reprint, I can't imagine.
    
    To my regret, there no numbers, or maths, in it. Not an equation in the whole 
    book, though Howse, a curator at Greenwich, was more
    than capable of tackling the maths, if he had chosen. My preference is for rather heavier stuff.
    
    As an outline of the achievements of an extraordinay man, it can't be 
    bettered. Anyone who has read Dava Sobel's shallow aspersions
    in "Longitude" will find a good antidote in Howse.
    
    I haven't read the Danson book on "Weighing the World", that Patrick Goold 
    mentions, but at a guess that refers to Maskelyne's
    expedition to Mount Schiehallion, in Scotland, a geometrically-regular 
    volcanic cone. Its effect on the local direction of gravity
    was assessed by deflection from the vertical of near-zenith stars, observed 
    from either side of the mountain.
    
    
    contact George Huxtable, at  george@hux.me.uk
    or at +44 1865 820222 (from UK, 01865 820222)
    or at 1 Sandy Lane, Southmoor, Abingdon, Oxon OX13 5HX, UK.
    ----- Original Message -----
    From: "Patrick Goold" 
    To: 
    Sent: Monday, March 15, 2010 2:30 PM
    Subject: [NavList] Re: Books about Bowditch
    
    
    | Frank,
    | Thanks for the warning about the errors in the Lapham book!  And for the
    | Bowditch biography references.   It is more likely I will follow up first
    | the Derek Howse that Brad Morris makes reference to.  Nevil Maskelyne has
    | been someone I have wanted to find out more about every since I encountered
    | him in *Mason and Dixon *(one of my all-time favorite novels).  The only
    | other place I have read much about him is in Edwin Danson's* Weighing the
    | world: The Quest to Measure the Earth*.  Do you have other Maskelyne
    | recommendations?
    |
    | Patrick
    |
    |
    | On Mon, Mar 15, 2010 at 8:35 AM, Frank Reed
    | wrote:
    |
    | > Patrick Goold, you mentioned, "Carry on Mr. Bowditch". I enjoyed that book,
    | > too. It's a fun fictionalized biography. But beware: the accounts of the
    | > navigational advances made by Bowditch are not even close. There's a
    | > "eureka" moment in the book where he seems to have discovered the concept of
    | > lunars. It has him dancing about, waking the captain, and so on. But it
    | > wasn't that way at all. Such observations and the math used to process them
    | > had been well-known for 20 years by the time he invented (or re-invented)
    | > his interesting little mathematical trick. Bowditch didn't *write* the "New
    | > American Practical Navigator". He significantly revised Moore's "Practical
    | > Navigator". And he did a fine job, too. Of course, for a young audience, the
    | > fiction of a "eureka" moment is far more dramatic than "then he re-wrote an
    | > equation in a form that, while slightly longer, was generally easier to
    | > work". Equally problematic for a young audience was his career after his
    | > ocean voyages. He ran an insurance company for most of his life, doing math
    | > and science on the side for his own pleasure. Not exactly romantic! :-)
    | >
    | > There are a couple of other Bowditch biographies like "To Steer by the
    | > Stars" by Paul Rink. There's another, but the title escapes me. The only one
    | > that I would recommend is "Yankee Stargazer" by Berry, published in 1943.
    | > Despite the odd title, it's the best Bowditch biography I've read. From what
    | > I've been able to check from original sources, it's accurate, too.
    | >
    | > -FER
    | >
    | >
    | > ----------------------------------------------------------------
    | > NavList message boards and member settings: www.fer3.com/NavList
    | > Members may optionally receive posts by email.
    | > To cancel email delivery, send a message to NoMail[at]fer3.com
    | > ----------------------------------------------------------------
    | >
    |
    |
    |
    | --
    | Dr. Patrick Goold
    | Department of Philosophy
    | Virginia Wesleyan College
    | Norfolk, VA 23502
    | 757 455 3357
    |
    
    
    
    
    

       
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