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 – 26 January, Warranne:  ‘An eternal flame’  K I – a faithful replica of H – 4 John Harrison’s ‘sea-going pocket watch’ arrived at one particular ‘remote corner of the world’  – Sydney Cove – on 26 January 1788 aboard HMS Supply one (1) of eleven (11) ships of the ‘First 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

Similar acrimony had been played out during John Flamsteed’s long tenure as Britain’s first Astronomer Royal at Greenwich Observatory, from the time of that Institution’s inception in 1675 until Flamsteed’s death in 1720.

While Flamsteed was Astronomer Royal Edmond Halley of comet fame, with the connivance of Isaac Newton, purloined plagiarised and published Flamsteed’s life’s work ‘The Star Catalog’ without Flamsteed’s authority.

Halley and Newton’s antics paled however when compared to those of the Reverend Nevil Maskelyne Britain’s fifth Astronomer Royal from 1765 to 1811.

Maskelyne persecuted John Harrison and waged a pitched battle against his sea-going clock – the invention as Sobel so poetically has it ‘wrested the world’s whereabouts from the stars, and locked the secret in a pocket watch’.  See: Malicious Maskelyne

Governor Arthur Phillip RN saw fit to continue that war. His target Marine Lieutenant William Dawes for his courageous stance in the face of a series of moral dilemmas that presented at Sydney 1788 – 1792.

‘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

(more…)

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 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 determining longitude at sea.

(more…)

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’s 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 teaching mathematics. He went on to serve as Chief Assistant to three (3) Astronomer Royals, James Bradley, Nathenial Bliss and briefly Nevil Maskelyne.

In 1675 King Charles II engaged Sir Christopher Wren to design an Observatory. Wren chose the ruins of Greenwich Castle. Although many of its buildings had been destroyed by Oliver Cromwell’s Roundhead Model Army during The Protectorate Interregnum (1653-59) its foundation were intact.

In 1676, Rev. John Flamsteed, England’s inaugural Astronomer Royal, took up residence in the newly minted Observatory and remained in the role until his death in 1720.

Edmond Halley of comet fame succeeded Flamsteed and held the post for twenty-two (22) years until his own death in 1742.

Rev. James Bradley followed Halley. His tenure too was lengthy 1742-1762. 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 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.

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

(more…)

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, H-1 an early model of John Harrison’s  marine watch – 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

(more…)