Posts Tagged ‘Astronomer Royal’

LIEUTENANT WILLIAM DAWES & ‘THE ETERNAL FLAME’

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: When the ‘eternal flame’ arrived aboard HMS Supply at ‘a remote corner of the world’ – Sydney Cove now –  on 24 January, 1788 it was accompanied by the discord that attended its birth. See: Captain Cook, John Harrison, Charles Green – Three Yorkshire-men  Walked  into a Bar

Initially that discord was played out at Greenwich Observatory between John Flamsteed, Britain’s first Astronomer Royal and Edmond Halley, who would succeed Flamsteed.

During Flamsteed’s long tenure 1675-1720 Halley, with the connivance of Isaac Newton, purloined, plagiarised and published Flamsteed’s work without his permission.

Their antics however paled into insignificance when compared to those of Nevil Maskelyne fifth Astronomer Royal from 1765 to 1811, who fought a pitched battle against John Harrison and his invention the clock that ‘wrested the world’s whereabouts from the stars, and locked the secret in a pocket watch’. Sobel. ibid.

Governor Arthur Phillip RN saw fit to continue that war. His target Marine Lieutenant William Dawes and his devotion to both God and the ‘pocket watch’. See: Malicious Maskelyne

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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, 1998

Harrison H-4 Chronometer

Since earliest times sea-faring nations such as 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:  Legislation, The Act of Longitude 1714, followed an enquiry into England’s first recorded 18th century maritime disaster.

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

Under the 1714 Act a 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.

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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 having taken Holy Orders established a school in Soho, London. Charles found his ‘heavenly passion’ astronomy. After he graduated Charles staying on for a time to assist John with the teaching of mathematics.

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

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

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 the sea-going ‘pocket-watch’ – an accurate marine chronometer – many a sea-farer would not have met a watery end. Bradley’s tenure lasted twenty (20) years he 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

‘Not likely’ – not so – as early as 1736, on a timed voyage, England to Lisbon aboard HMS Centurian, H-1 a marine clock had shown itself 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 to the calculation of longitude that gave a ship’s precise position at sea when beyond sight of land.

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

Harrison was the carpenter from Yorkshire whose invention, the sea-going watch, solved the problem of longitude.

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