17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Make time to read this
While Longitude is, on the surface of it, a book about scientific endeavour, its appeal is due to the story of a man's struggle against the prevailing thought of the time and the board set up to judge the award for the discovery of a method of determining longitude which was full of people with vested interests. The determination and drive of Harrison is awesome; if...
Published on 15 Mar 1999
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Needs More Diagrams
I enjoyed Longitude, but it would be better with even a few diagrams to explain some of the details of Harrison's clock making breakthroughs. I couldn't form a picture just from reading the text how his gridiron pendulum allowed for temperature changes, but I'm sure it could have been explained quite easily with a diagram and a reference to basic physics. The recent...
Published on 12 Jan 1999
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Special anniversary edition not a very good edition,
This review is from: Longitude: Special Anniversary Edition (Hardcover)
The Longitude: Special Anniversary Edition (Publisher: Fourth Estate; edition 27 Feb 2014) is not as it seems. Hard cover but pulp paper (low quality). Bad printing. The cover is nice to see but be aware: the material is carboard and not fabric (as it seems in the photo). I don't really know why is a "Special" edition. I give three stars to the edition not to the book itself; I apologize for that but Amazon doesn't have a review form only for that (it would be a good idea though)The Longitude: Special Anniversary Edition (Publisher: Fourth Estate; edition 27 Feb 2014) is not as it seems. Hard cover but pulp paper (low quality). Bad printing. The cover is nice to see but be aware: the material is carboard and not fabric (as it seems in the photo). I don't really know why is a special edition. I give three stars to the edition not to the book itself. I apologize for that but Amazon doesn't have a review form only for that (it would be a good idea though)
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pride and Prejudice,
Harrison seems to have been one of those people who is his own worst enemy; too proud to be successful.
Sobel is almost as prejudiced in his favour as some of those who opposed him were prejudiced against him. So it's difficult to feel you have read this and got the true picture. It seems that the astronomical methods were more successful than she admits for most of the book.
Nevertheless this is a helpful read which puts the development of clocks into context and reminds us just how difficult it was to navigate the seas safely in the days before GPS.
4.0 out of 5 stars Battles on land to mark time at sea,
This review is from: Longitude. The True Story Of A Lone Genius Who Solved The Greatest Scientific Problem Of His Time (Hardcover)
This popular science account of huge changes in the 18th century has no pretensions to be a scholarly work. Short and simple, with reference material consigned to the appendix, the style is simple and the book refreshingly short. There is no attempt to draw the story out into the wider history of the age, just a clear focus on the challenge and the conflicts between the people involved.
The challenge of solving the longitude problem taxed the greatest brains of the later middle ages, as greater commerce created more shipping and more losses from miscalculations of position. The book describes the creation of almost-perfect time-keeping devices by John Harrison, and his attempts to prove these were the solution to the problem. Opposed to him were some of the great astronomers, who proposed the lunar distance solution, and stood in judgement of Harrison's efforts. Although Harrison himself was perhaps his own worst critic, refusing to even submit his first two creations test until he had improved them ... taking another 30 years.
The book captures the detail of clock-making without becoming boring, balancing the details with the desires of Harrison to deliver perfection and the tension between the competitors for the prize. Striking a fine balance between science and personality, this is certainly one of the better popular history of science books.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, but only part of the picture.,
This is an enjoyable book, but it is a pity that in making a good tale, the author has given such an unbalanced account. The Harrison chronometer was far from being the "solution" to the Longitude problem that Sobel implies. When Captain Vancouver sailed from England to the Pacific North West of America in the 1790's his two Harrison chronometers were showing times forty five minutes apart by the time he got there, making them useless. The "lunar distance method" gave the necessary correction. Captain Cook and his officers used lunar distances successfully in Australia, and when Joshua Slocum made his famous single handed voyage around the world, he carried a cheap alarm clock rather than chronometers because he used lunar distances. Enjoy the book, but look further, and look beyond crude hero and villain stereotypes!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Longitude,
Splendid book. Factual and fascinating, full of superb research. First rate, I love it and for anyone remotely interested in marine chronometers in the early years, this is as good as they come.
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful little book!,
I just loved this little book. I an not adept in science but I enjoy reading about the history of the world's most important discoveries. Dava Sobel's book is a perfect fit. Not so technical that the layperson would be put off, it tells the tale of the race to claim the prize for the discovery of determining longitude at sea. The book is not meant for scientists but for the average person who doesn't have the technical knowledge to understand the intricacies of the various methods. She does an excellent job explaining very difficult subjects and I think the clocks themselves are just too technical to have fit in this book. She admits at the end, this is not a scholarly work. I applaud her for making accessible to ordinary people one of the greatest innovations in history. I've read it twice and would not hesitate to read it again. I would highly recommend.
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating story, very well told.,
By A Customer
The puzzle of the Longitude which had foxed the greatest minds of the greatest Empires was solved by an untrained, ill-educated Yorkshire-man. He wasn't believed and this is a fascinating story into the bickering and petty-mindedness that accompanied John Harrison's rightful claim for the prize.
This is a very light book but readers should not be deceived by this as it is written in a brilliantly clear and concise manner and explains complex issues cleverly and makes it accessable to readers of all backgrounds. It takes much more skill to my mind to write this way than to load each page with verbosity and convoluted writings.
This book was a surprise hit last year and rightly so, it is excellent.
3.0 out of 5 stars Best if you have an interest in the subject matter,
This review is from: Longitude (Kindle Edition)
A story of one man's dogged determination to manufacture an accurate portable timepeice to allow measurement of nautical longitude. Although the story is an engrossing one (you have to admire Harrison's sheer staying power!) the telling does sometimes get a bit side-tracked with descriptions of competitor's travails and hence loses momentum, but i guess it does provide context. I found it interesting, but occasional hard going! Best if you have an interest in the subject matter.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Despite lacking a scientific background, I loved this...,
Dava Sobel's Longitude is a rare phenomenon indeed; a riveting non-fictional account of a two hundred year old mechanical success story. As is evident from the title, the book is concerned with navigation, and primarily with the desperate search that ensued during the latter part of the 18th century for an accurate means to identify longitude. Sobel's unusual approach to her subject is laudable. Recognising a unique perseverance of the human spirit, her inquiry focuses on the quiet genius of John Harrison, and his tireless commitment to finding a mechancal solution to the longitudinal conundrum. By empathising so strongly with the watchmaker, Sobel creates a veritable "craftsman hero", whose obvious vision, and years of tribulation against a prejudiced and frequently devious establishment, combine to create a narrative that is both enthralling and enlightening. Much of the enchantment of the story can be attributed to the theoretical simplicity of Harrison's dream. Whilst Newton and other scientific luminaries of the era were scouring the heavens for astronomical answers, Harrison alone stood convinced that the solution was horological. In a similar vein, the clarity and passion of Sobel's prose opens up a subject that prior to her elucidation might have remained the preserve of the purely scientifically minded. Highly recommended reading.
4.0 out of 5 stars I might have wanted a bit more detail too!,
By A Customer
This review is from: Longitude (Large Print Version) (Hardcover)
The book aims to illustrate the conflict between science and politics. Most people don't want to know how a chronometer works, just as in now the vast majority of people would not stomach the details of genetics. Yet the book shows how scientific progress is always linked to politics. It reminds me of Brech's "Galileo" but with a different angle. Also a nice quick read.
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Longitude by Dava Sobel