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Riassunto: An exciting scientific adventure from the days of wooden ships and iron men, Longitude is full of heroism and chicanery, brilliance and the absurd. It is also a captivating brief history of astronomy, navigation and clockmaking.
For centuries, the determination of longitude was thought to be an impossibility. Lacking the ability to measure their longitude, sailors throughout the great ages of exploration had been literally lost at sea as soon as they lost sight of land.
The quest for a solution had occupied scientists for the better part of two centuries when, in 1714, England's Parliament upped the ante by offering a king's ransom -- £20,000, or about $12,000,000 in today's currency -- to anyone whose method or device proved successful. Countless quacks weighed in with preposterous suggestions.
Then one man -- an unschooled woodworker named John Harrison -- dared to imagine a mechanical solution, a clock that would keep precise time at sea, something no clock had ever been able to do on land. Longitude is the dramatic human story of an epic scientific quest, and of Harrison's forty-year obsession with building his perfect timekeeper, known today as the chronometer.
Recensione: Dava Sobel's Longitude tells the story of how 18th-century scientist and clockmaker William Harrison solved one of the most perplexing problems of history--determining east-west location at sea. This lush, colorfully illustrated edition adds lots of pictures to the story, giving readers a more satisfying sense of the times, the players, and the puzzle. This was no obscure, curious difficulty--without longitude, ships often found themselves so far off course that sailors would starve or die of scurvy before they could reach port. When a nationally-sponsored contest offered a hefty cash prize to the person who could develop a method to accurately determine longitude, the race was on. In the end, the battle of accuracy--and wills--fought between Harrison and arch-rival Maskelyne was ruthless and dramatic, worthy of a Hollywood feature film. Longitude's story is surprising and fascinating, offering a window into the past, before Global Positioning Satellites made it look easy. --Therese Littleton
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