Book Reviews

Longitude by Dava Sobel

Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time is a best-selling book by Dava Sobel about John Harrison, an 18th-century clockmaker who created the first clock (chronometer) sufficiently accurate to be used to determine longitude at sea—an important development in navigation.

The book tells the story of Harrison’s forty-year obsession with building his perfect timekeeper, known today as the chronometer, and how he solved the problem of calculating longitude at sea.

The main themes of the book are the power of genius to transform human life, the importance of determination and perseverance, and the impact of technological advances on society. Through the story of John Harrison, Sobel shows how one man’s ingenuity and dedication can have a lasting impact on the world.

The book also highlights the importance of the Longitude Prize, which was offered by the British government in 1714 to anyone who could find a practical solution to the problem of determining longitude at sea. This prize motivated many to search for a solution and ultimately led to Harrison’s success.

What I Liked

I loved how this book brought attention to such a basic technology that went so long without a solution. I like how it centered on the power of a single individual to make a massive impact. It’s nuts that all the power & money of the British, French, Spanish, Dutch, and Portuguese empire could not solve the problem of longitude until John Harrison came along.

What I Did Not Like

Not a whole lot – it’s a bit of a random topic and it’s a bit dense at points. But overall, it’s a fascinating book.

By Nate

I'm Nate Shivar - I live in Atlanta and love exploring the city, outdoors, books & Internet. Read about me, my Now page, or my work.

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