Have one to sell?
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See all 2 images

Longitude: Special Anniversary Edition Hardcover – 27 Feb 2014

4.4 out of 5 stars 169 customer reviews

See all formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price
New from Used from
Kindle Edition
"Please retry"
Hardcover, 27 Feb 2014
£3.50 £84.79
Audio CD
"Please retry"
£70.37
click to open popover

Special Offers and Product Promotions

Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone

To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.




Product details

Product Description

Amazon Review

The thorniest scientific problem of the eighteenth century was how to determine longitude. Many thousands of lives had been lost at sea over the centuries due to the inability to determine an east-west position. This is the engrossing story of the clockmaker, John "Longitude" Harrison, who solved the problem that Newton and Galileo had failed to conquer, yet claimed only half the promised rich reward. --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.

Review

‘Perhaps the most famous book about getting lost since “The Odyssey”.’ Sunday Telegraph

‘An extraordinary tale of political intrigue and academic back-biting, of intellectual brilliance, and mechanical genius, of heroic endeavours and downright dishonesty … a superb achievement.’ Spectator

‘A true life thriller, jam-packed with political intrigue, international warfare, personal feuds and financial skullduggery.’ Daily Mail

‘Rarely have I enjoyed a book as much as Dava Sobel's “Longitude”. She has an extraordinary gift of making difficult ideas clear.’ Daily Telegraph

‘This brief history of time is a fine tribute to a man who changed the world.’ Irish Times

‘Dava Sobel has written a gem of a book … one of the best reads for the non-scientific to come along for many a moon.’ Financial Times

See all Product Description

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Dava Sobel's description of the search for an accurate means to measure longitude was a surprise best seller when first published. This latest, celebratory edition is prefaced by an introduction by Neil Armstrong. Does it add to the package?
Sobel took what was once an intractable problem - finding a means to work out precisely where you are - and turned it into a very readable account, making the history and science readily accessible to a popular readership. Working out latitude is not particularly difficult - the equator is a fixed point and observation of sun, stars, and length of day make it relatively easy to determine how far north or south you are.
But longitude? Because the earth spins (more or less) on a north/south axis, the two poles act as fixed points in space. There are no such fixed points on the equator - every point on the equator undergoes a complete revolution every twenty four hours. Longitude has always been problematic, and for the seafarer, that problem could easily prove fatal.
The solution came in the creation of clocks which would keep good enough time at sea, and the man responsible for their invention, Harrison, emerges from Sobel's book as a determined, driven man.
It's a fascinating little book, written in a highly accessible style. It's quite a quick read. It's a highly enjoyable read. It's also a stimulating read, and must have encouraged a few people to delve further into history and science.
But does it deserve a new edition? Well, the cachet of Armstrong's introduction is a reminder that long distance sea travel was once as dangerous as current space travel. It's unnecessary. Sobel's story is exciting enough, and will absorb you with or without an introduction. It remains an excellent little volume and a worthy publishing success - maybe it's time you read it again!
Comment 65 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
By A Customer on 15 Mar. 1999
Format: Paperback
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 it was a novel you would find it difficult to believe. This is arguably the one book that has driven the much quoted trend towards science based books. While the media asks if this signals renewed interest in things scientific, the real answer is more likely that stories such as this are successful because they are about real people with real obstacles to overcome. Well worth a read; it won't take you long!
Comment 24 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Just to prove that the most wonderful stories can be produced from true life, this science book for the layman tells the irresistable tale of John Harrison, winner of the English Parliament's prize for the determination of longitude in 1770.
This is a tiny book in the paperback version, and makes for a rapid but extremely satisfying read. Political intrigue, fascinating science and excellent incidental anecdotes abound. (My favourite occurs right at the beginning - the tale of a haughty admiral who has an uppity sailor hanged for daring to question his navigation, and who receives his comeuppance in the most deliciously ironic way.... and it's all true!)
Most of all, it brings into focus the concept of a "life's work" - John Harrison's dogged faithfulness to producing the world's most accurate chronograph in a practical, portable package. The sheer thought of spending 19 years perfecting just one variation of it is inconceivable; that he spent over 40 years refining his concept to the eventual prizewinning piece just boggles the mind.
This is a delightful read.
Comment 28 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
By A Customer on 12 Jan. 1999
Format: Paperback
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 Horizon programme on the BBC made exactly the same mistake. Without more explanantion we are really being asked to take the author's word for it about how clever Harrison's clocks were. It's a good story though. One thing I'm still not sure about is how do you measure local noon on board ship any more accurately than you measure the moon's position. With a few more explanations this book could have been excellent.
1 Comment 8 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is not that I dislike this book - not at all. I just do not understand enitrely why everyone seems to think this is the bestest book ever written (or at least the best since the invention of sliced bread). Again, do not get me wrong, this is not a diss, and Dava Sobel did a really good job - it is not easy, after all, to write compellingly about clocks. But just why this book is as famous as it is, eludes me. Perhaps that, to many out there, it is a spectacular relevation for just how long people at sea had no clue how far East or West they actually were. Anyway, I still would recommend this compact & well written book.
Comment One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Paperback
This is a highly readable little book, and I recommend it, with a few caveats.
Sobel presents her material logically and lucidly. She is a good prose stylist and is obviously an accomplished reporter. This book, however, feels like what it is: a series of articles stretched out a little to accommodate a best-seller format. The story is an intriguing one. An 18th century inventor rises from obscurity and against great odds and bias, produces an instrument that will prove of enormous benefit to his country and to humankind.
Just don't go into the reading of this book expecting great historical writing. Sobel acknowledges in a postscript that she doesn't include footnotes "because this book is intended as a popular account, not a scholarly study...". She has culled her research, for the most part, from interviewing historians, attending a seminar, and visiting various sites in England. At least she is forthright about her methodology, so she won't have to face the gauntlet that Kearns-Goodwin and Ambrose have recently had to run (mixed metaphor?).
Another minor irritation arises from the fact that one of the prominent blurbs one finds when opening the book comes from Diane Ackerman, whom Sobel later identifies in her list of acknowledgments as her "dear friend." Again, at least she's being transparent about it, but it still strikes me as a bit disingenuous.
To her credit, Sobel does include a rather comprehensive bibliography, so those who want to further investigate Harrison's achievement are well guided.
Longitude is a good, quick summer read. For those who want some pith with their punch, however, I would recommend the A&E Sturridge video or CD adapted from this work.
Comment 9 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse


Feedback