Posts Tagged ‘Astronomer Royal’

LIEUTENANT WILLIAM DAWES – THE ‘ETERNAL FLAME’ & THE SHOCK OF THE NEW SOUTH WALES CORPS

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

‘When leaving Botany Bay [for Sydney Cove 25 January 1788] Phillip noticed two French ships in the  offing….there would seem to be “some justification for the saying that England won Australia by six days”. Edward Jenks, cited H.E. Egerton, A short History of British Colonial Policy, Methuen, London 1928

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‘Our wealth and power in India is their [France ] great and constant object of jealously; and they will never miss an opportunity of attempting to wrest it out of our hands’. Sir James Harris cited, Michael Pembroke, Arthur Phillip Sailor Mercenary Governor Spy, Hardie Grant Books. Melbourne, London, 2013

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‘Military and police raids against dissenting Aboriginal groups lasted from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries…These raids had commenced by [on 14th] December 1790’.  Professor Bruce Bruce Kercher, An Unruly Child, A History of Law in Australia, Allen & Unwin, 1995.

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‘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

Harrison H-4 Chronometer

 

Australia knows little of the ‘eternal flame’ or the remarkable role it played in the invasion of New Holland, now Australia.

Warranne – 26 January 1788:  K I – a faithful replica of John  Harrison’s  H-4 a ‘sea-going pocket watch’, given by Astronomer Royal Nevil Maskelyne into the care of marine  Lieutenant William Dawes, fetched up at one particular ‘remote corner of the world’  – Sydney Cove – aboard HMS Supply one (1) of the First Fleet’s eleven (11) ships.

It was the essential ingredient in both the survival of the British invaders and the dispossession and near destruction of Australia’s First Peoples.

‘He [Dawes] was the scholar of the[First Fleet] expedition, man of letters and man of science, explorer, mapmaker, student of language of anthropology, teacher and philanthropist’. Professor G. Arnold Wood, Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society Vol. X, 1924, Part 1

However, aside from Daniel Rooke, Kate Grenville’s star-struck cardboard cut-out hero of The Lieutenant, non-indigenous Australians know almost nothing of him.

‘Dawes whose tour of duty it was to go out with that [14 December 1790] party [refused that duty by letter’. Wood. ibid.

Australia either knows nothing of, or turns a blind eye, on Lieutenant Dawes’ pivotal role in revealing the how ,why and wherefore of the ‘war nasty and decidedly lacking in glory’ Britain waged against Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples. See: The Big Switch

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

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

1714  – Westminster: An enquiry into England’s first recorded 18th century maritime disaster resulted in legislation- The Act of Longitude 1714.

A Board of Longitude was established under the Act. Its task to invite and evaluate submissions and award a prize of £20,000 to whom-so-ever solved the problem of determining longitude at sea.

The contest,  to the detriment of the world’s seafarers, developed into a naked grab for cash. A king’s ransom, reckoned now at more than £400,000,000, did much to delay recognition of the solution at the cost of countless lives.  See: Lotto and Longitude

‘John Harrison, the man who solved longitude in 1759’. Peter Ackroyd, Revolution, Macmillan, London, 2016 See: Lieutenant William Dawes & ‘The Eternal Flame’

There had only two (2) viable contenders for the Longitude Prize. Astronomer Royal Rev. Nevil Maskelyne’s Nautical Almanac , a system of  Luna Tables  and Star Cataglog favoured by a succession of Astronomer Royals and a sea-going ‘pocket-watch’ the invention of John Harrison a Yorkshire carpenter.

‘The Board of Longitude was top-heavy with astronomers, mathematicians and navigators…the Reverend Nevil Maskelyne the fifth astronomer royal, who contested his [Harrison’s] claim to the [Longitude] prize money and whose tactics at certain junctions can only be described as foul-play’. Dava Sobel. ibid.

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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’s Greatest Explorer, Ebury Press, 2002

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

London: John his elder brother took Holy Orders and established a school in Soho, London.  It was there Charles found his ‘heavenly passion’ astronomy. After graduating he stayed on teaching mathematics.

Greenwich 1760: In 1760 Charles applied successfully for the position of Assistant Astronomer at Greenwich Observatory. He went on to serve as Chief Assistant to three (3) Astronomer Royals, James Bradley, Nathaniel Bliss and briefly Reverend Nevil Maskelyn.

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In 1675 King Charles II engaged Sir Christopher Wren to design a National Observatory. Wren considered the ruins of Greenwich Castle a perfect site. Although Oliver Cromwell’s Roundhead Model Army, during The Protectorate Interregnum (1653-59) , destroyed its buildings the foundations were intact.

Greenwich: In 1676, Rev. John Flamsteed, Britain’s inaugural Astronomer Royal, took up residence in the newly minted Greenwich Observatory. He remained in the role until his death in 1719.

In 1720 Edmond Halley of comet fame succeeded Flamsteed. He held the post for twenty-two (22) years until his 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.

Not until three (3) centuries later were Bradley’s calculations amended to 299,790 km (186,290 miles) per second.

Arguably had Bradley stuck to light and left longitude to Mr. John Harrison inventor of the H-4 sea-going ‘pocket-watch’ many a sea-farer may not have met a watery end. Bradley died in 1762

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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

‘And not likely to be’: However in 1736-7 just ten (10) years after Newton’s death (1727) H-1, an early model of John Harrison’s  marine watch  on a supervised timed voyage – England to Lisbon aboard HMS Centurian – proved to be a reliable time-keeper.

Accurate time-keeping was essential for the calculation of longitude at sea. Harrison a Yorkshire carpenter solved that problem. His  invention – a sea-going ‘pocket watch’ – 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

The Centurian voyage was typical of John Harrison’s long struggle for recognition.

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

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