Author: Dava Sobel
For centuries, fixing the longitude at sea was a serious problem for navigators.
While latitude was easily determined by astronomical observations, longitude remained elusive, often causing ships to run ashore with terrible loss of life as a consequence. The "Longitude Prize" was thus established to reward the first person who devised a practical and precise method for finding Longitude at sea. This book is the story of one man and his invention - John Harrison's "chronometer". The chronometer was a watch precise and stable enough to provide accurate timekeeping while at sea, which was essential for determining longitude. Longitude is a wonderfully written book that really brings to life the characters in this story. The troubles faced by this watchmaker while facing the more established scientific powers of the time and the intrigue and backstabbing that ensued is described in an inspired and engaging fashion. The side stories illustrating the realities of navigation in the 18th century are also colorful and fascinating. This is a great summer vacation book. The book is short enough that one can read it in a couple of days, and the narrator (for the audio version) is delightful. Highly recommended.