Posts Tagged ‘John Harrison’

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.

1707 – Cornwell:  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 submissions, evaluate their worth and award a prize of £20,000 to whom-so-ever solved the problem of determining longitude at sea.

The contest developed into a naked grab for cash to the detriment of the world’s seafarers.  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’

In truth there were only two (2) viable contenders for the Longitude Prize. The Nautical Almanac of Astronomer Royal Rev. Nevil Maskelyne a system of  Luna Tables  and Star Cataglog. A method favoured by a succession of Astronomer Royals.

‘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 [Maskelyne’s] tactics at certain junctions can only be described as foul-play’. Dava Sobel. ibid.

The other was a sea-going ‘pocket-watch’ the invention of an artisan, John Harrison a Yorkshire carpenter.

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THE THIRD MAN – CHARLES GREEN & LONGITUDE

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

1734 – Yorkshire: Charles Green son of ‘a prosperous’ free-hold farmer was born in Swinton towards the end of 1734. He 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.  There Charles found his ‘heavenly passion’ astronomy. After graduating he stayed on to teach mathematics.

1760 – Greenwich Observatory: 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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MOON VERSUS MACHINE

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

Compared with that of Banks, Mr. Green’s [Endeavour] equipment was comparatively modest’. H.C. Cameron, Sir Joseph Banks, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1966

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

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‘With his marine clocks, John Harrison tested the waters of space-time….He wrested the world’s whereabouts from the stars, and locked the secret in a pocket-watch [H-4]‘. Dava Sobel, Longitude, Fourth Estate, London, 1998

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Greenwich Observatory: Who was Mr. Green? Charles Green had been Assistant Astronomer to Rev. James Bradley and Rev. Nathaniel Bliss, Astronomer Royals at Britain’s Greenwich Observatory.

In 1764 Green, owing to Bliss’ ill-health travelled to Barbados with astronomer Nevil Maskelyne. Their task to compare Maskelyne’s method  of determining longitude based on his Nautical Almanac with that of H-4 aboard HMS Tarter on a supervised timed-voyage England to  Barbados.

Green returned to Greenwich convinced of H-4’s reliability to tell ‘true-time’.  Time was the essential ingredient needed to calculate ‘longitude’ when a ship at sea was out of sight of land.

Tahiti :Yet, as designated astronomer on the Endeavour voyage 1768-1771 to Tahiti and beyond he was denied John Harrison’s chronometer. See The Third Man – Charles Green

‘H-4 [was] bolted to a window seat in the Observatory’.  Dava Sobel, Longitude, Fourth Estate, London, 1998

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1675: To advance the science of astronomy n 1675 The Restoration  King Charles II, commissioned Sir Christopher Wren to build an Observatory. The Reverend John Flamsteed  was appointed England’s first Astronomer Royal. His annual salary  of £100 was ridiculously low.

Wren found an ideal site in Greenwich Castle. Although its buildings had been substantially damaged by Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army during England’s Civil Wars in the first half of the century the foundations were intact.

Once a favourite haunt of King Henry VIII who used it as a hunting’ lodge it was no longer suitable for a king. Flamsteed laid the Observatory’s foundation stone in August 1675.

1676  -Greenwich Observatory:  The build was swift. In July the following year when Flamsteed took up residence he found there was very little equipment to work with.

Off-the-shelf as well as bespoke instruments had to be purchased and there was a chronic shortage of money to buy them .Despite this and, migraine headaches a life-long affliction, Flamsteed’s long tenure, he died in 1719, was very productive.

He produced a Star Catalogue that ‘contained the position of over 3000 stars calculated to an accuracy of ten seconds of arc’. 

Plagiarism – the actions of two (2) scientific luminaries,related to the Star Catalogue, marred his time at Greenwich.

Flamsteed’s deteriorating relations with Edmond Halley, when combined with the malicious influence of Isaac Newton, led them to print and publish his work without permission.

1720: On his death in 1720  King George I – German George – appointed Edmond Halley, of comet fame, England’s second Astronomer Royal.

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Dava Sobel says Halley’s imagination had been fired much earlier on observing;‘a more common transit of Mercury from St Helena…in 1677’.

In 1716 he had postulated there would be two (2) transits of Venus in the decade 1760. Furthermore Halley predicted another century would pass before such a phenomenon would be seen again.

It was this last that stirred the Royal Society into action.

 

 

‘On May 5th, 1768, at a meeting of Council of the Royal Society it was resolved that the [Banks] instruments for the use of the Observers of the South Latitudes be the following:

Two [2] reflecting telescopes of two [2] foot focus…[1] brass Hadley’s sextant, [1] barometer bespoke of Mr Ramsden, [1] Journeyman’s Clock bespoke by Mr Skelton, two [2] Thermometers of Mr Bird, [1] Stand for Bird’s Quadrant, [1] dipping needle bespoke by Mr Ramsden’.  Cameron. op. cit.

Tahiti: After the Admiralty rejected Alexander Dalrymple, a member of the influential Scots ‘Dalrymple Dynasty’, first choice of the Royal Society, that august body engaged Charles Green to represent them at Tahiti there to observe and record the Transit of Venus. See: The Third Man

Edmond Halley of comet fame had predicted the planet Venus would pass across the face of the sun on 3 June 1769. The Admiralty supplied a ship HMS Endeavour, its captain Lieutenant James Cook RN and a Royal Navy crew.

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

Plymouth: So why in August 1768, ten (10)years after the longitude problem had been solved, was Harrison’s marine ‘pocket-watch’ chronometer ‘H-4 bolted to a window seat in the [Greenwich] Observatory’ and not aboard HMS Endeavour when  she sailed from Plymouth. See: Captain Cook, John Harrison, Charles Green – Three Yorkshire Men Walked Into A Bar

No doubt H-4 sat under the watchful eye of Rev. Nevil Maskelyne Britain’s fifth Astronomer Royal who had been appointed to that high post in 1765 on the death of Rev. Nathaniel Bliss.  Maskelyne held a conservative stranglehold over the position until 1811.

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MALICIOUS MASKELYNE

Monday, August 14th, 2017

‘The Transit [of Venus] was more than just an astronomical curio, it was the key to a wealth of information about the universe, information that would be seized upon by the intensely curious men of science who characterised the age’. Vanessa Collingridge, Captain Cook, The Life, Death and Legacy of History’s Greatest Explorer, Random House, 2003

England – 1663: In 1663 during the reign of King Charles II (1660-1685) a collection of ‘intensely curious men of science’ – the ‘Invisible College’ – morphed into the Royal Society.

A century later, the Society flowered under the patronage of King George III (1720-1820), to become one of the world’s most celebrated scientific institutions.

Tahiti: In 1767 with the Transit of Venus in the offing – 3 June 1769 – its second appearance that decade – the Society petitioned King George III for financial support to send observers to send an expedition to Tahiti and report on the phenomenon.

‘That the passage of the Planet Venus over the Disc of the Sun, which will happen on the 3rd of June in the year 1769, is a Phaenomenon (sic) that must, if the same be accurately observed in proper places, contribute greatly to the improvement of Astronomy on which Navigation so much depends.

 As the [Fellows] are in no condition to defray this Expense about £4,000 pounds, exclusive of the Expense of the Ships…with all humility and submit the same to your Majesty’s Royal consideration’. Cited, H.C. Cameron, Sir Joseph Banks, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1968

1768 – February: To that end James Douglas 14th Earl of Morton, then President of the Royal Society, on 15 February 1768 penned a Memorial requesting the Monarch’s financial support.

Royal money was forthcoming for it was clear accurate and reliable ‘Navigation on which so much depends’ equated with domination over the world’s oceans. Domination would expedite expansion of territory and trade. Strategically placed ‘bases’ would more likely assure victory in time of conflict.

‘And the sum of £4,000 pounds clear of fees, [was] to be placed at the disposal of the Society…On March 5th of the next year, 1768, the Navy Board was instructed by the Admiralty to purchase a suitable vessel for the great voyage to the South Seas’. Cameron, Sir Joseph Banks, Angus and Robertson, 1968

Deptford -1768, 5 March: Admiralty settled on the Earl of Pembroke. Renamed Endeavour she was a typical coal carriercat-built bark’ of 368 tons ‘stoutly built, flatly bottomed of shallow draught’.

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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’: Yet in 1736-7, just ten (10) years after Newton’s death in 1727 an early model of John Harrison’s marine clock, H-1, proved to be a reliable time-keeper aboard HMS Centurian  on its inaugural  voyage under Captain Proctor RN who unfortunately died as his ship reached home port and before he had brought his report up to date the

a supervised timed voyage – England to Lisbon.

Its acceptance however was  beset with difficulties.Mischievous tales  woven around H-1s1736  London to Lisbon voyage that included were typical of John Harrison’s long struggle for recognition. (more…)