Book reviews, History, Non-fiction

Longitude by Dava Sobel

5/5 stars

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Processed with VSCO with g3 preset

My husband read this book when we were on vacation on the recommendation of someone he works with and just kept talking about it, so I asked him some questions so that I could write it up and maybe get the word out that it was a great book!

Non-fiction, Informative, excellent, thought provoking

This is the true story of a carpenter that floored the world.

This book is about how longitude came to be.  In the 1700s, John Harrison, a carpenter who was the son of a carpenter was challenged himself to figure out longitude.  When the Royal Navy heard he was doing this, they commissioned his work, thus paying him for his time so that he could devote all of his energy to this endeavor.  His clocks were extremely accurate – maybe a couple of seconds off over the period of a couple of months.

He started out by making clocks.  John Harrison spent decades making clocks.  His clocks, which have wooden gears, are still around today and people spend years and a lot of money to repair them and keep them in good use.

Figuring out distance from North to South (latitude) was easy because of the setting sun.  But longitude was more difficult.  So, with the help of John Harrison’s meticulously made, extremely accurate clocks, time could be measured at one point and then how much time it took to get to the next point .

The meridian had been in Paris, France and Parisians really wanted to keep it there, but it was discovered, because of longitude, that Greenwich, England was the most accurate place for the meridian.

Captain Cook was able to map out islands and land masses because he had timepieces on his ship (he also prevented illness among his crew by feeding them fermented foods, my husband learned in this book, which just made him appreciate even more that I encourage him to eat fermented foods. haha).

One of the things that struck my husband about this book was that this guy spent days and days on very simple tasks, so different from today where we are so driven to make the next buck, crunch numbers, get ahead, meet a bottom line.  We want things fast and we don’t want to spend that much time on anything.

And that, my friends, is your history lesson for today.

I recently discovered that there is a movie for this book and I put it on hold through inter-library loan and plan to surprise my husband with it!



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