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Encyclopedia > Longitude Prize

The longitude prize was a prize offered by the British government through an Act of Parliament in 1714 for the precise determination of a ship's longitude. // Events August 1 - George, elector of Hanover becomes King George I of Great Britain. ... Longitude, sometimes denoted by the Greek letter λ, describes the location of a place on Earth east or west of a north-south line called the Prime Meridian. ...


The measurement of longitude was a problem that came into sharp focus as people began making transoceanic voyages. Determining latitude was relatively easy in that the altitude of Polaris, the northern pole star, was equal to the observer's latitude. But two lines of position are needed to determine location. The most desirable second position line was a line of longitude. Latitude, usually denoted symbolically by the Greek letter φ, gives the location of a place on Earth north or south of the Equator. ... Polaris (α UMi / α Ursae Minoris / Alpha Ursae Minoris) is the brightest star in the constellation Ursa Minor. ... For other uses of the words Pole star and Polestar see Polestar (disambiguation). ...


In one incident in 1707, Admiral Cloudesley Shovell and his fleet were afloat in fog and thought they were in the middle of the ocean; they ran aground and over 2000 men died. That incident in the general context of British maritime endeavours led to the establishment of a prize for finding a method of measuring longitude. Events January 1 - John V is crowned King of Portugal April 25 - Allied army is defeated by Bourbonic army at Almansa (Spain) in the War of the Spanish Succession. ... Sir Cloudesley Shovell c. ...

"The Discovery of the Longitude is of such Consequence to Great Britain for the safety of the Navy and Merchant Ships as well as for the improvement of Trade that for want thereof many Ships have been retarded in their voyages, and many lost..." Parliament, in 1714, voted to offer a reward (£10,000 for any method capable of determining a ship's longitude within one degree; £15,000, within 40 minutes, and £20,000 within one half a degree) "for such person or persons as shall discover the Longitude."

John Harrison was the man who solved the problem of measuring longitude. While most efforts had focused on a precise catalogue of stars, to be used together with the moon's position to determine longitude, Harrison attempted to build a precision clock which kept the time of the home port. This, together with determination of the local time using the height of the sun, would allow mariners to calculate longitude. With support from the Board of Longitude set up to administer the prize, he started in 1730 to build several spring-driven clocks, finally succeeding in 1761 with a determination of better than half a degree. // Events August 1 - George, elector of Hanover becomes King George I of Great Britain. ... For other people with this name, see John Harrison (disambiguation). ... In astronomy, many stars are referred to simply by catalogue numbers. ... Bulk composition of the moons mantle and crust estimated, weight percent Oxygen 42. ... The Board of Longitude was a British Government body formed in 1714 to solve the problem of finding longitude at sea. ... Events Pope Clement XII elected September 17 - Change of emperor of the Ottoman Empire from Ahmed III (1703-1730) to Mahmud I (1730-1754) Anna Ivanova (Anna I of Russia) became czarina Births April 16 - Henry Clinton, British general (d. ... 1761 was a common year starting on Thursday (see link for calendar). ...


However, the board refused to believe that longitude could be determined without astronomical measures, first awarding only half the prize and then dragging the process out with more demands for evidence and several copies of the clocks.


Finally in 1773, King George III persuaded Parliament to award the prize to Harrison, bypassing the board. 1773 was a common year starting on Friday (see link for calendar). ... George III (George William Frederick) (4 June 1738 – 29 January 1820) was King of Great Britain and King of Ireland from 25 October 1760 until 1 January 1801, and thereafter King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until his death. ...


Dava Sobel's 1996 bestseller Longitude (ISBN 0140258795) recounts Harrison's story. A film adaptation of Longitude was released by A&E in 1999, starring Michael Gambon as Harrison and Jeremy Irons as Rupert Gould. Dava Sobel is a writer of popular expositions of scientific topics. ... 1996 (MCMXCVI) was a leap year starting on Monday of the Gregorian calendar, and was designated the International Year for the Eradication of Poverty. ... The A&E Network is a cable and satellite television network based in New York City. ... 1999 (MCMXCIX) was a common year starting on Friday, and was designated the International Year of Older Persons by the United Nations. ... Michael Gambon in Charlotte Gray, (2001) Sir Michael Gambon (born October 19, 1940) is an actor who has become known worldwide for his role as Albus Dumbledore in the two latest Harry Potter films; he is also a Samuel Beckett scholar. ... Jeremy Irons Jeremy John Irons (born September 19, 1948) is an Oscar-winning English actor. ... Rupert Gould (November 16, 1890 - October 5, 1948), was a Lieutenant Commander in the British Royal Navy, and is perhaps most widely known for restoring the chronometers of John Harrison. ...


Today a sailor has a number of choices for determining accurate positional information, including radar and GPS, the satellite navigation system. This long range radar antenna, known as ALTAIR, is used to detect and track space objects in conjunction with ABM testing at the Ronald Reagan Test Site on the Kwajalein atoll[1]. Radar is a system that uses radio waves to detect, determine the distance of, and map, objects such... Over fifty GPS satellites such as this NAVSTAR have been launched since 1978. ... Satellite navigation systems allow small electronic devices to determine their location (Longitude, Latitude, and Altitude) in within a few metres using time signals transmitted along a line of sight by radio from satellites. ...


See also

Nevil Maskelyne. ... In celestial navigation, lunar distance is in the angle of the Moons centre from the Sun or from the bright stars. ... An inducement prize contest (IPC) is a competition that awards a cash prize for the accomplishment of a feat, usually of engineering. ...

External links

  • Royal Observatory Greenwich: John Harrison and the Longitude Problem
  • Nova Online: Lost at Sea, the Search for Longitude

 
 

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