I found this little gem in a used bookshop for one dollar. I was faintly aware of “the longitude problem” but totally unaware of the details. This book packs an extraordinary story of those details in a mere 180 pages. The story involves father-son inventors, royal arch-nemeses, Galileo’s invention of the telescope, danger on the high seas, the invention of modern clocks, and 18th-century arms races among countries seeking to dominate the oceans (spoiler: England won).
If you have never heard of John Harrison or his forty-year quest to build the perfect maritime clock, this easy afternoon reader is a geek’s dream. It’s a great underdog story about a rural craftsman attempting the impossible, trying to crack the greatest unsolved science challenge of his day, using an approach completely at odds with the astronomy elite… to claim a million dollar prize (well, £20,000 in those days). This is exactly what we wander used bookstores hoping to find.