By Dava Sobel
In the eighteenth century the biggest scientific problem of the day was how to measure longitude while at sea. For centuries sailors, and their ships, were lost at sea simply by losing sight of land. The scientific community was convinced the answer lay in the celestial; if one could measure latitude this way then surely longitude was just a case of working out the right patterns. But clock maker John Harrison was convinced he could create a device of sufficient accuracy able to withstand the vigors of a ship at sea.
I purchased Longitude from the gift shop of Claphams Clock Museum in Whangarei back in 2017. I began to read the first few pages, and before I knew it the well-written story had grabbed my attention. In this small book (I read most of it on a one-hour flight) the author, Dava Sobel, does an excellent job of concisely telling the tale of longitude in a way that is appealing to many more than those with just a scientific interest. The writing allows the book to be widely accessible and would be of particular enjoyment to those with interests in history, maritime, technology, science, and politics.