Posts Tagged ‘Astronomer Royal’

LIEUTENANT WILLIAM DAWES – ‘THE ETERNAL FLAME’ & ‘UNIVERSAL TERROR’

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

‘English clockmaker John Harrison, a mechanical genius who pioneered the science of portable precision timekeeping…invented a clock that would carry the true time from the home port, like an eternal flame, to any remote corner of the world’. Dava Sobel, Longitude, Fourth Estate, 1998

1788 – 24 January, Warranne:  K I – a faithful replica of H-4, John Harrison’s ‘sea-going watch‘ carrier of the ‘eternal flame’, arrived at one particular ‘remote corner of the world’  – Sydney Cove – on 24 January 1788 aboard HMS Supply one (1) of eleven (11) ships of Britain’s invasion fleet.

The discord that attended H-4’s birth accompanied K-1 to New Holland. See: Captain Cook, John Harrison, Charles Green – Three Yorkshire-men  Walked  into a Bar

Initially that discord had been played out during John Flamsteed’s long tenure as Britain’s first Astronomer Royal at Greenwich Observatory, from that institution’s inception in 1675 until his death in 1720.

Edmond Halley of comet fame who succeeded Flamsteed  as Astronomer Royal, with the connivance of Isaac Newton, purloined, plagiarized and published, Flamsteed’s life’s work  ‘Star Catalog’ without Flamsteed’s authority,

These antics paled however when compared to those of the Reverend Nevil Maskelyne fifth Astronomer Royal from 1765 to 1811, he persecuted John Harrison and waged a pitched battle against his invention – the sea-going clock – as Sobel says so poetically; ‘wrested the world’s whereabouts from the stars, and locked the secret in a pocket watch’. Sobel. ibid. See: Malicious Maskelyne

Governor Arthur Phillip RN saw fit to continue that war; his target Marine Lieutenant William Dawes for his devotion to both God and the ‘pocket watch’.

‘He [Dawes] was the scholar of the expedition, man of letters and man of science, explorer, mapmaker, student of language of anthropology, teacher and philanthropist.

There is no man among the founders who ought to have given so much information about himself and his views as Lieutenant Dawes, and there is no man among them who has given us so little. Professor G. Arnold Wood, Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society Vol. X, 1924, Part 1

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CAPTAIN COOK – JOHN HARRISON – CHARLES GREEN: THREE YORKSHIRE MEN WALKED INTO A BAR

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

‘He [John Harrison] wrested the world’s whereabouts from the stars, and locked the secret in a pocket watch’. Dava Sobel, Longitude, Fourth Estate, London, 1998

Harrison H-4 Chronometer

Since earliest times sea-faring nations England, Portugal, France, Spain and the Netherlands vied with each other to solve – the Holy Grail of Navigation – longitude – calculating with precision a ship’s position while at sea beyond sight of land.

1714  – Westminster: Legislation, The Act of Longitude 1714, followed an enquiry into England’s first recorded 18th century maritime disaster.

In 1707 off the Cornish coast in heavy weather six (6) of Admiral Clowdisley Shovell’s ships lost their bearings and were dashed to pieces on the Scilly Isles with the loss of 1500 lives.

As a consequence in 1714 The Board of Longitude was established to invite and evaluate submissions and award a prize of £20,000 to whom-so-ever solved the problem of longitude at sea.

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THE THIRD MAN – CHARLES GREEN

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

‘The grim roll-call broke his [Cook’s) heart…the death of the astronomer Charles Green marked a wave of those who ‘departed this life’….By the end of January [1771] they had barely enough men to man the ship [HMS Endeavour]’. Vanesssa Collingridge, Captain Cook, The Life, Death and Legacy of History Greatest Explorer, Ebury Press, 2002

Charles Green son of ‘a prosperous’ free-hold Yorkshire farmer was born in Swinton towards the end of 1734. He received a broad education with a strong emphasis on science.

John his elder brother took Holy Orders and established a school in Soho, London where Charles found his ‘heavenly passion’ astronomy. After graduating he stayed on for a time to assist John and taught mathematics.

In 1760 Charles applied successfully for the position of Assistant Astronomer at Greenwich Observatory where in that capacity he served three (3) Astronomer Royals.

James Bradley first of these men had, in 1742 succeeded Edmond Halley of comet fame, who died during that year. Halley had held the post of Astronomer Royal for twenty-two (22) years from 1720-1742.

Bradley’s tenure too was lengthy he reigned until his death in 1762. Bradley is celebrated principally for his work on the speed of light. In 1728 he estimated light moved at the speed of 295,000 km (183,000 miles) per second.

Three (3) centuries later – 2017 – Bradley’s calculations were amended to 299,790 km (186,290 miles) per second.

If only Bradley had stuck to light and left time and longitude to Mr. John Harrison inventor of an accurate marine chronometer – a sea-going ‘pocket-watch’ – many a sea-farer would not have met a watery end.

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LOTTO AND LONGITUDE

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

‘But by reason of the motion of the Ship, the Variation of Heat and Cold, Wet and Dry, and the Difference of Gravity in different Latitudes, such a watch hath not yet been made”. And not likely to be, either, he implied’.  Isaac Newton cited, Dava Sobel, Longitude, Fourth Estate, London, 1998

‘Not likely’ however in 1736 on a timed voyage, England to Lisbon aboard HMS Centurian, an early model of John Harrison’s  marine clock the H-1 – proved to be a reliable time-keeper.

‘He [Harrison] succeeded, against all odds, in using the fourth – temporal – dimension to link points on the three-dimensional globe’. Sobel. ibid.

Accurate time-keeping was essential for the calculation of longitude and John Harrison a Yorkshire carpenter solved the problem of longitude with his sea-going ‘pocket watch’ that gave a ship’s precise position when beyond sight of land.

‘John Harrison, the man who solved longitude in 1759’. Peter Ackroyd, Revolution, Macmillan, London, 2016

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