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The Discovery of Longitude

2014-08-13 | 🔗

People knew how to find their north-south position even before we had the idea of "latitude." But once people lost sight of land, they didn't have reliable way of figuring out how far east or west they'd gone - how to measure their longitude.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This episode of stuff you mustn't history class is brought to you by the completely redesigned twenty twenty Ford explorer. This is not because I'm going to take you to the moon or to the bottom of the sea. But it's one that you can use for all kinds of exploration and adventure and your everyday life azure going around town if you're travelling just going over to the grocery store too Everything you need for your kids birthday party once again the all new twenty twenty Ford explore the greatest exploration vehicle of all time,
I love sports and I love my wife. I will destroy our. We haven't even started. You have you the type, a fan who loves to debate Europe versus Leubronn, Lambeau versus soldier field, or even the sand lot verses. Major league. You will love listening to our podcast. The greatest we ask some of our favorite comedian, friendless liberties, to come and constructively are do everything within the world of sport with my comedian and sports, frenetic life, Megan gaily and my hilarious writer and comedian husband see J till it on out to listen and follow the greatest. I hurt radio apple pie, curse or wherever you listen to punch. Continued stuff. You missed in his reply from house up, works, darkened and welcome the Prague Castle and I'm howling bright, though recently, because I had just been three weeks researching the doctors riot and then the ban
of Blair Mountain and then the tells the rays riot. I asked on Facebook or suggestions are things that were happier you ve got a lotta heavy content to be dealing with and among the suggestion that we got word down, winders, which are the people who live downwind of the fall out from nuclear weapons tests also the Holocaust. Also, the appeal general slogan which burned up and led to the deaths of more than a thousand people. Someone suggested a math lynching and someone else suggested the irish war of independence, in which more in two thousand people died, including more than seven hundred civilians, though what this tells me is we have lots of comedians among the listeners or a lot of really dark people hovel in terms of their outlook on. We are all good ideas, they're using light hearted. Now what I was out
but look at all. We did give many that were a little happier and ran me, on the other hand, asked us to talk about Longitude and he followed it with eight exclamation points, and so that story has clocks and science and an inventor and shipwrecks, but mostly preventing the shipwrecks. So that's like an awesome place to start in terms of doing something, a little happier. Of course, ass things often go. It's not actually a completely happy story, but it is not so devastating as some of my recent research, and certainly not as devastating as the Holocaust or M F wanting now so just about everybody probably remembers from elementary school that we measure coordinates and locations in Longitude Latitude. These concepts have been around, at least since Ptolemy time around the year. One hundred fifty he created an ATLAS
use the grid of lines both to mark the maps Anti index all of the places in them people have also now how to find their north south position even before we had the idea of latitude the Phoenician for we see it as early as six hundred BC e, most techniques for doing that. Involve measuring the height of heavenly bodies from the horizon at a specific time and will linked to some step by step. Instructions on how to do this in showed its were curious people rather than trying to explain it to you Now that would be, you know what I would like to have well. I was originally typing it into these notes and it got extremely long yet anytime, you the directions on how to do things. It can spiral out of control in a hurry additionally, a few seafaring peoples, had some other tricks for figuring out, roughly where they were on the globe: Lake, observing the fleets of birds in the patterns of waves, however, as a general rule, once people lost sight of land,
really have a reliable way of figuring out how far EAST or west they ve gone, in other words, how to measure their longitude thus also applied. Basically anywhere, you could lose sight of familiar landmarks: So even they were talking about the ocean today and also that the same rule applied with deserts or mountain ranges that hadn't been explored and it led to some problems. Besides the obvious inability to answer that where are we also unanswerable? Words? Do we have enough to eat until we get We're going at the rigour, travelling and foresee travellers are we about to run into anything that last one The specially important it led to a lot of maritime disasters. Is ships ran aground on reefs and land masses that people knew where they are, but didn't know were right there we ve talked about those in some of our previous episodes in this problem. Was partition
We the case, starting in the fifteenth century, as more and more ships tried to travel across oceans instead of just sticking along coastlines, you couldn't even rely on your best guess and a map as people you know, started making maps of all this unexplored area because most of the maps were wildly inaccurate in terms of their longitudinal measurements anyway, to put the sea monsters in the wrong place. Yes, most of the methods that people tried to four figuring out how to measure Longitude hinged on one question, which was what Is it so when you're travelling east local time moves ahead an hour for each fifteen degrees of longitude that you travel and the opposite is true for every fifteen degrees that you move west? So if you have a reference time that you can use as a starting point, you can figure out
time. It is where you are now usually using the sun, and you can compare the difference between those two times to calculate you. Longitude dutch mathematician Gemma Fridges proposed using a clock to keep an accurate reference time all the way back in fifteen thirty but no clock about point was actually accurate enough to do the job, not even a clock that was sitting on land and at sea clocks are even less accurate because the motion of the ship- interacted with the motion of the clocks, pendulum and changes in temperature and humidity could also mess up the inner workings Galileo got in on the accident. Sixteen thirteen and he was using the eclipses of jupiters moons as a reference point, rather than starting with an ordinary clock. His big big idea was to make eclipse charts that sailors can use it see you, but he was never really satisfied with the accuracy of the charge that he puts.
Ideas at least were in fact sound. First, he measured the eclipses of Jupiters moons from position in Paris, and then he went to the aisle island of glory in the West Indies and measured them again. Comparing what time they occurred and gory to what time they were predicted to occur in pay island of glory in the West Indies and measured them again, comparing what time they occurred and glory, what time they were predicted to occur in Paris and the special that was pretty accurate, but even so it was not really practical to use it on a ship. The telescopes at the time were to unwieldy the ship really needed to perfectly still to be able to observe and measure the eclipses accurately plus timing, the eclipses them themselves. Still required and accurate clock like this counting one one thousand, was not going to be accurate enough and an accurate clock was still a problem and running pair,
well to all of this scientific work. Nations recognised how important it was to their merchants and we need to be able to measure longitude, so they started offering incentives for people to solve this problem. Philip II of Spain offered a prize to whoever could figure it out in one thousand five hundred and sixty seven and phillips. Did the same in fifteen. Ninety eight England and France both started observatories in the late seventeenth century, and their goal was to astronomy to navigate the use of astronomical charts, sextants and the position of the moon to determine Longitude became known as learners, although this was really difficult to do, and for a long time until astronomers worked out some irregularities with the the moons. And I was also not accurate. So eventually, a maritime disaster really launched England into a bona fide effort to solve this problem, and we're gonna talk about that after a quick word from us.
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For a very long time about how to solve the longitude problem and then, in October, of seventeen o, seven admiral Sir Cloud is he shovels fleet was shipwrecked off of Sicily, for ships were driven into the rocks thanks to high winds because their measurements were off from their actual positions. More than two thousand men were lost in the quarter. Master of one of the ships was the only survivor this it is usually cited as one being mostly due to the longitude problem and to ask the thing that really got great Britain to focus on solving it. It was, definitely an immense loss of both property in life. However, to some degree. It was also a little bit of a scapegoat. The incorrect measurements were actually farther off. In turn, of latitude than they were in terms of measuring the longitude, whenever shovel was a highly decorated and experienced admiral nobody one
blame him for the disaster, so Longitude really got the finger of blame, regardless of how much longitude really was responsible for what happened? parliament passed the Longitude ACT in July of seventeen forty, which read in part where It is well known by all better acquainted with the art of navigation, that nothing is so much wanted and desired at sea as the discovery of the longitude for the safety and quickness of the voyages, the preservation of ships and the lives of men and whereas, in the judgment of able, mathematicians and navigators, several methods have already been discovered. True in theory, though, very difficult in practice, some of which there is reason to expect may be capable of improvement. Some already discovered may be proposed to the public and others may be invented hereafter. So the Longitude ACT goes on to say that discovery. Would
of particular advantage to Great Britain, but that it also difficult inexpensive, and so it named several people as commissioners of Longitude, and it sets a cash prize for a prayer. Oh exact method. It was ten thousand pounds to within one degree ten thousand pounds to two thirds of a degree and twenty thousand pounds if it could be his exact, as within half of a degree method had to be proven out, while on a six week voyage to the east indies. In terms of a clock to be able to earn this grand prize, the clock could not gain or lose more than three seconds a day since that would add up to two minutes or if a degree over a six week trip, the commissioners of Longitude later became the board of Longitude. Had this board drew from scholars military mines. It included. Three professors of mathematics from Cambridge in Oxford
as well as the astronomer Royal and the President of the royal society also included were the first Lord the admiralty, the first commissioner of the Navy Board and the speaker of the House of Commons. Simultaneous a lot of people really thought. This was a fool's errand and a lot of the suggestions that came in were completely cockamamie, like, for example, someone suggested that they stations ship, at regular intervals all over the ocean where they could use lights and noise to provide guy points. There is also a really wacky theory that had to do with complete pseudoscience and involve wounded dogs, yet bandages. If it was really strange and very silly had a lot of people started using discovering the longitude as a synonym for doing something completely impossible. Many men
lock makers and scientists had tried to make a clock. They could keep accurate time at sea. At this point they had tried springs. They had tried you sealed chambers and all manner of other techniques and technology, to try to protect the clock from motion and from the men's, and some of them had actually met with limited success. They kept good time and fair weather in relatively smooth seas, but one thing once things got: and Rocky they started to falter in their accuracy. The man whom, This all work finally was John Harrison. We know almost nothing about Harrison's childhood early life or about his personal life outside of his flock making. He was born on March twenty. Fourth, sixteen ninety three and he was the the five children in seventeen eighteen, he married a woman named Elizabeth Barrel and they had a son the next summer. she died when the boy with six and here re married, a woman named Elizabeth Scott. They went on to have two
for children and their marriage lasted for fifty years. Harrison learn to be a wood worker from his father and he had no formal training making clocks most of his other education was self taught with the help of books. He borrowed and he was only twenty when he made his first pendulum clock almost entirely from, would truly unclear how he figured out how to do this. Considering that he had no background clockwork, and his family wasn't well enough off to afford a clock. were no known, clock makers living anywhere near where he grew up so the little hazy. He got this information and knowledge there. give me a little bit of Benjamin Baker who we talked about him, making a clock after he took a part, a pocket watch that somebody had loans to him Harrison built to more wooden clocks over them. A few years and by seventeen twenty, he developed a reputation for being really good at making clocks. He had a knack for figuring.
ingenious ways to improve on existing technology. He was afraid of rust, so he's brass instead of iron ore. Steel, instead of relying on lubricants. All the clocks at this point really had to be lubricated to make their inner workings ago. He tried using woods that secreted their own oil to make the years out of he also designed his wooden gears so that they used the grain of the wood to make them stronger and since pendulums expand and contract with changes in temperature, which makes the clocks and accurate he used combinations of metals that expanded and control a different rates and cancel each other out ingenious. I know you love hearing about someone who just have so many insights into ways to solve problems. I'm pretty sure when we put this episode on our Facebook, somebody's gonna put the aliens guy well horse on.
that's fine! I love the aliens guy, we're not sure when Harrison heard about the Longitude Prize, but later in life, he noted noted that he was on his mind by seventeen twenty seven he'd already tackled some of the obstacles that threw off clocks at sea. Particularly the lubricating oils that got thicker and thinner depending on the weather, so his Clarks that rain, without It had a leg up already any just needed to figure out how to compensate for the motion of the ship. His first attempt became known as each one, and this is a big heavy, blocky brass thing with or dials on the front that showed hours minutes seconds and the day of the month. The whole thing worked without any lubrication and in place of a pendulum. It used. These bar shaped balances that were connected by springs and they cancelled out the motion of the ship. This design drew high praise from Edmund Halley, who was on the board of one
at the time, and it was proved to be sent on a test voyage to the east indies. The admiralty didn't send it on the voyage for more than a year, though, and they sent it to Lisbon instead of the EAST Indies, and on top of that, the captain I'd shortly after her arrival. Even so, the eight one prove to be accurate it, the ship's masters reckoning of their position and soon after Harrison arrived in England. In June, seventeen thirty seven, the Board of Longitude, convened for the first time since its inception to discuss his invention fell success yea instead of jumping up a prize money, Harrison said he wanted.
make his invention better. He asked for two more years to work on a smaller, improved version and he also asked for five hundred pounds to subsidize his work. The board also agreed that, on the next test voyage, some other qualified person could accompany the clock because Harrison had been profoundly seasick during the Lisbon voyage. Have some fun fun fun? We live. I He sickness. I empathize. I don't know anybody the loves it, but when you're really prone to it, my understanding is that it's really quite nor the late for Harrison presented the each to use. His second version. in January of seventeen forty one. It was heavier bigger in it. You circular balances instead of the bar shaped ones, which compensated for the ships and even better than the first version, but Harrison still thought he can improve on it. So he spent the next nineteen years on the h three. When he finally finished, he was really satisfied that it would do the job
like his old pendulums. The eighth three used to metals to counteract one another's expansions and contractions. The clock also needed no lubrication and both of the innovations that he used to achieve still exist today. The metal in the form of bar metallic strips that are used in thermostats and the lubrication free workings in the form of caged ball bearings that are still used in all kinds of machines. His resulting clock was also wider answer. Really be carried in a pocket, but it looks a lot like a pocket watch. It definitely was much much smaller and nimbler than the other This did come with some trade offs, though. Unlike the earlier models, it did require lubrication and it needed to be wound every day and required some regular. Thought at all about using anything so small, a plausible to keep time on a ship, but Jeffreys Pocket Watch. Captain
extremely well so Harrison decided to make another time peace. The looked more like a pocket watch. Yet at this point little pocket watches worse not they were not very accurate and their Greece, ITALY and they had to be wound every day, the hell out of downsides, and so he had never thought about trying to do it. That way. But after getting this gift, he did and the resulting h or was finished in seventeen. Fifty nine it wait only three pounds and measured five inches across so too big and heavy to really be carried in a pocket. But it looks a lot like a pocket watch it currently was much much smaller and nimbler than the other versions he had made. This did come with some trade off, though, unlike the earlier models, it did require lubrication and it needed
He wound every day and required some regular maidens inclining to keep it running, but its portable, and you also read it just like you'd reader, regular clock and, as was proved on a voyage, it was more accurate than required for the twenty thousand pounds prize. However, he did not immediately Reba lots of prize money because there was drama the age for went on a test voyage to Jamaica which, as we referenced before the break it passed with flying colours, but the trial was thrown out on a technicality. Harrison was supposed to use. The eclipses of jupiters moons took him to confirm the longitude in Jamaica, and he didn't do that. He didn't know that he was supposed to do it. He wound up getting like a smaller sort of consolation prize. That would make me her rough me while other two programmers never
Glenn and James Bradley, the latter being the astronomer royal on the Longitude Board had been in pursuit of the poor. I threw lunar methods, as we talked about earlier. I might Harrison they both headforemost standing in a presence in the academic community. And others advocated strongly for a lunar solution to the longitude problem, not a mechanical one, Bradley died. His replacement, Nathaniel Bliss, was similarly tied to the lunar idea. One of those weird things where the fact that they both had formal education's made people believed them more than they believed. he was felt taught. But then all through a lot of people seem to have this really weird idea that the harder method would be better somehow than one. That was easy sometime
The idea that in life, so I can't judge them too harshly- oh yeah third level masculine became Harrison's nemesis. He became the official observer for Harrison's do over of his trial, of the eight or even though masculine had a vested interest in his own work, winning the prize. In spite of math limbs involvement, the H orders, asked its second test again once again with flying colours. After a long delay, the Board of Longitude granted Harrison half the prize promising. The remainder if he hit over all of his prior work and built to more models of the eight four but ass time passed. George, the third started, adding more requirements to the Longitude ACT, which at this point when it comes to using data, everyone is different, which is why externally mobile created a different kind of wireless network, one that's work for this by gassed comes from see you now applied cast
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when you have a passion for sports. You cried out a precision game. I was just about to say, and the love of your life does to throw boy. A passion is now turning on me when you haven't insanity for sports and your husband as to you find yourselves constantly debating the goats, so we decided to start of podcast. All about this topic is called the greatest grid
combat greatest man even greatest tailgate food, the hollow wing Nachos Buffalo, kickin nachos. Now this is the type of marital compromise you'll also here, on a par cast. My husband comedian see day till it on out in my wife, comedian, making gaily, and I will invite some of our favorite comedians insularity, friends, to help us discuss the greatest of all time across all the best parts of sports, listen and followed. The greatest on I hurt radio asked Apple pie, gas or wherever you listen. Apart casts Harrison's relationship, the board became progressively more and more adversarial the board
demanding that he'd, dismantle and reassemble that each for in the presence of observers, which had never been part of the requirements and which you know Harrison was logically afraid that some was was gonna steal. His idea masculine, who was still acting as Harrison's taskmaster, also at the same time, started publishing his own astronomical charts for people to use. Instead of this clock idea, all this craziness dragged on and on, and even though the eight four had been proven to work is. It was supposed to mass killing collected it along with all of Harrison's other time pieces to subject it to ten months more of tests and which he insisted on conducting himself, and these tests went on from May of seventeen sixty six to me, of seventeen sixty seven, and not only did the aid for fail, but it also never worked properly after this is possible. Masculine had something to do with that. Back
yeah. He also work to get there. He also handled all the other clocks are really roughly in transporting mound like one of them was dropped while loading it onto the cart. That was going to take them to London in the cart that took them to London was just inordinate. Bad and very readily and shaky if he just did not take care with the whole thing, so only after a great deal of angry back and forth, Harrison did actually make two more h, force, watchmaker law candour made a reproduction as well, which he called K, one which took him more than two years to complete K, one and on Captain James Cook. Second voyage he had previously spoken
highly of the lunar method. Meanwhile, Harrison moved on to making yet another watch, which was the h five, as this was happening. His son, William wrote to King George, the third this letter detailing all of his father's work and how difficult things had been with the Longitude Board as later reported by William Harrison son John. So the John Harrison clock me his grandfather. King George said these people have been cruelly treated by God. Harrison. I will see you righted. King George went to the prime minister at this point and the Prime Minister than to the board and finally, in April of seventeen, seventy three Harrison was granted aid and seven hundred and fifty pounds, which was most of the difference.
The ten thousand he had been given earlier and the twenty thousand that he had earned by completing this task, but it specifically was not the grant prize, although the Board of Longitude was in existence for a hundred and fourteen years, and it ultimately spent a hundred and one thousand pounds in an attempt to crack the longitude problem. It never awarded the twenty thousand pound prize to any one one of the arguments that was made against Harrison getting it was that the h, or was too expensive and time consuming to mass produce. I mean it had taken this other watchmaker Larcom, Kindle two years to make or one reproduction of it. Not if this had been part The original stipulations, though it does seem a little harassing at that point, it really starts to feel like the board was dislike. We don't want, apart with that money
However, Captain Cook was absolutely glowing about the K one when he returned from his journey. He said that I quote: exceeded the expectations of its most zealous advocate and called it are faithful guide through all vicissitudes and climates. He pretty much what converted from his previous feeling, which was that the astronomical charge that had been provided him on his first voyage had worked perfectly well At the end of this whole saga, John Harrison died on March. Twenty fourth of seventeen. Seventy six only a couple of years After being awarded this additional eight thousand seven hundred fifty pounds, Larcom candles attempts to mass produce here since designs were really not at the quality Harrison had manage. They were inferior, but
them known as the key to was stolen from Captain Bligh during the mutiny on the bounty. Other watchmakers kept trying to figure out how to mass produce and build on this. A idea and finally Watchmakers John Arnold and Thomas Earnshaw, each managed to figure out ways to mass produced them, although the quiet of what was put out really varied a whole lot better, Seventeen eighties, though, using a chronometer to take a large reading, became a common part of ships logs many ships had more than one, for the sake of both redundancy and accuracy, they would take the same reading with lots of different clocks to try to make sure that they had the most accurate one. The h M S, Beagle reportedly had twenty two of them. When Charles Darwin began his voyages.
It must have Harrison's clocks are now in London's National Maritime Museum, as well as other museum throughout the world. S kind of a side note there was a lot of talk, is all of this was going on about what a great loss of life would be prevented if the land a tune problem or solves. I read a really interesting, be hindered paper while doing the research for this about house, scurvy was actually killing wave or sailors. Then shipwrecks did and said We was killing more sailors even than combat wise and the authors we're like. If they actually really cared about the loss of life, there would have been a scurvy board to Tehran that problem, which Cook, wound up doing by his own efforts were his own crew. Without someone forcing him to do it, so I found that to be kind of an interesting aside. So now do you have some list.
Real for us to enjoy the aside their path erect about our episode on the battle of Blair. Mountain has said in the episode dimension, my hometown of Fort Thomas Kentucky, where my family has lived for four generations. Although my family lives history, I somehow missed that the soldiers from the fort once participated in the national conflict. I've been to the fort many times because, in addition to still serving Army Reserve Basis, also a local park as kids. My brother and I spent many hours at the fort, exploring the woods playing tennis and climbing the jungle gems. We used a mountain bike on the same roads that the army gipsies for training exercises. Grandmother who married into the fort on a side of our family, was the daughter of a coal minor. Eleanor. Never let us forget our roots in the coal industry and made sure that my brother and I grew up knowing the differences between bituminous, an anthracite coal
most call on the United States, such as the coal mine at Blair, Mountain Bituminous coal, which has a lower carbon content than the anthracite coal and burns, was the fish Lee Grandma. I grew up in the anthracite region of Pennsylvania, where her father was a member of the United Mine Workers union. My great grandpa was called snowball and he was a child of russian and polish emigrants who came through Ellis Island. Snowball started working at the mines and he is thirteen having just finish third grade when he was
teams. Nobody was permitted to several operator and during his nearly five decades in the coal industry, snowball learn to operate the steam diesel and electrical shovels. Shovel up operation was considered a pretty good job at the time became because it came with less health risks than most mining careers. Snowballs work with shovels took place on the surface of the mind, though he did not have to regularly inter shafts and was not exposed to the same amounts of carbon best as other minors. Snowball outlived. Many of his mining colleagues, but was able to meet some of his great grandchildren, including me before he passed away at the age of ninety three recently That's me. On a pilgrimage to the whole region to see family and friends, we visited several mining towns, including some Tralee up where a coal fire has been burning underground. Since nineteen sixty two send out where the great emphasis I call strike, took place in nineteen o two and William Penn, a former company town, where my great grandfather served as chief of the Volunteer Fire Department, a picture
of my great grandfather still hangs on the wall? The firehouse? I will never forget my expedition to the whole region, because, while I always knew the call was important to my family, I never really appreciated how extensively all contributed to the formation of the modern United States, my grandfather from Port Thomas and my grandmother from the call region met in Washington DC, both joined the navy to improve their prospects. I wonder if they ever spoke about the connection between the Fort Thomas and the coal industry or if they ever realised how the battle their mountain mutually affected their lives, while my grandmother no longer with us, grandpa still active in lives history. I will definitely play your pod cast for him. The next time, I'm home thanks for helping us make a new memory and for the great work that you do kiss. I wanted to read this for a couple of reasons. One is that I love when we have family stories that are tied to the pike ass. The other is that casts included how to pronounce the town of sham do, which is specifically spelled like shit in Doha,
it is pronounced said with used, were other parts of the world in other places and pretty much any example when something as a pronunciation, that's pretty established as being different from how local people say at the time that I need someone to spell it out for me, because I would have thought it wrong I totally would have gotten Shenandoah here, because there is, there are definitely one hundred percent other places pronounced. That way, oh thank you guess for writing. An for telling me They send out, if you would like to write to us, you can wear it. History, pot, tacit house networks, dot com, but also on Facebook, at Facebook, dot, com, Flash Miss than history and on twitter admission history are tumblr. Is MR history not tumbled out how him and were on pensions, that countries that calm Flash miss history. If you would like to learn more about what we have talked about today, you can come through our parent companies website, which has asked that works.
then put the word longitude into the third part, you will find an article on how to use the stars to find your way. If you would like to come to our website, which has missed in history, dot com you'll find our shone out. You'll find all of them and we will be putting in some links. hell you in more detail how to figure out where you are using things like clocks and stars and suddenly things, because that would have been very convoluted to explain The absurd you can do all that and a whole lot more and has therefore set com or MR new freed at home for more openness and thousands of other topics. Housetop works.
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