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    Re: Ted Gerrard's book
    From: J Cora
    Date: 2007 Nov 18, 17:39 -0800

    I had no idea what the word appulse meant.   I found a definition
    the approach of one body to another, so I  assume?  that the phrase
    Halleys star appulses - it something like occultations?
    Thanks for adding to my vocabulary, although I may never use
    the word again.
    I see in other messages on this list that occultations were used
    as a sort of almanac, a way to mark a point in time,  when
    clocks were still not accurate enough to for surveying or
    navigation.  Here is where I will shamelessy speculate that
    almanacs of that time may have stated something like there
    will be an occultation of a specific ecliptic star by the moon at
    approx midnight?
    On Nov 18, 2007 6:19 AM, George Huxtable  wrote:
    > I've been asked for my opinions about Ted Gerrard's new book, "Astronomical
    > Minds". With a slight involvement, having been invited to scan an early
    > draft for technical mistakes as part of the error-checking process, it's not
    > possible to offer a completely independent review. But I'll be as
    > independent as I can, and you can take that for what it's worth.
    > It covers that fertile century of scientific development from roughly 1650
    > to 1750, concentrating exclusively on English work, with the Royal Society
    > at its centre. Many well-known names are drawn in, Wren, Hooke, Newton,
    > Flamsteed, Halley, Shovell, Hadley, Harrison, and the book ends about the
    > time when Maskelyne and Cook would appear on scene. The story told by
    > Gerrard deals mainly with the quest for a way to find longitude at sea. It
    > acts as a useful counter to the one-sided picture that's been built up
    > before by Sobel, who concentrated on Harrison's watch-work. Here, the
    > timekeepers gets shorter shrift, and the emphasis is on astronomical
    > solutions. If there's a hero, it's Edmond Halley (and deservedly so). If a
    > villain, that's Shovell.
    > The book is a riveting read. It's written in a racy style, and if you're an
    > academic historian, that may set your teeth on edge. It has the great
    > advantage of having been written by an experienced navigator, not by a
    > historian confined to a library. So Ted shows his great insight into the
    > practical problems that beset a navigator in finding his position at sea. He
    > allows himself much more freedom to speculate than a historian would, which
    > is fine by me. The weakness, in my view, is the way that plots and intrigues
    > are discovered under every bush. My own view of history is that cockups play
    > a larger part than conspiracies; but everyone to his own taste.
    > Ted enjoys relating the interactions between these larger-than-life
    > characters, their feuds and their follies. But also, he has delved deeply
    > into the records, so this is far more than a rehash of the standard texts,
    > and becomes a real quest into the way that scientific knowledge unfolded. He
    > has used modern tools, such as sky simulation programs, which have allowed
    > him (and now allow us) to follow events such as Halley's star appulses with
    > the Moon. All this has enabled him to draw conclusions, such as Halley's use
    > of Newton's quadrant, which are new or unrecognised. His sources are well
    > referenced, but with occasional gaps.
    > Any dislikes? Yes, two. He devotes space to discovering coded hidden
    > meanings in inscriptions and epitaphs. No doubt, a lot of that sort of thing
    > went on in the era, but it leaves me a bit cold. If you're a crossword
    > enthusiast, it may be for you. Or you can skip those bits, like I did. And
    > the other? I couldn't get on with his indexing scheme.
    > The book costs �13.95 (about US$29), surface shipping worldwide included,
    > from-
    > www.samosbooks.org
    > 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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