MOON VERSUS MACHINE

‘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’. Dava Sobel, Longitude, Fourth Estate, London, 1998

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

Following his authorised participation in an official timed-voyage to Barbados aboard HMS Tarter,  Green was convinced of H-4’s reliability.

Yet, as designated astronomer in 1769, he was denied John Harrison’s chronometer for the Endeavour voyage with James Cook and Joseph Banks. 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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‘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, member of the influential Scots ‘Dalrymple Dynasty’, first choice of the Royal Society, that august body engaged Charles Green to represent them at Tahiti.

He would assist Lieutenant James Cook RN in observing and recording the Transit of Venus due to take place at Tahiti on 3rd June 1769. See: The Third Man

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

So why ten (10) years after the longitude problem had been solved was Harrison’s marine chronometer ‘H-4 bolted to a window seat in the [Greenwich] Observatory’ and not aboard HMS Endeavour when Green set off in 1769 with Lieutenant James Cook for Tahiti. 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.

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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‘How elaborate his [Joseph Banks] preparations were we may gather from a letter from John Ellis, Fellow Royal Society to Linneaus: ‘No people ever went to sea better fitted out for the purpose of Natural History”. John Ellis, cited H.C. Cameron, Sir Joseph Banks, Angus and Robertson, Sydney 1966

Lieutenant James Cook RN was charged, at the behest of England’s prestigious Royal Society, with conveying Joseph Banks and his party of botanists, naturalists, artists and servants to Tahiti and there observe the Transit of Venus.

Of the Bank’s group of ten (10) only four (4) – including Banks himself – survived the second phase of the voyage into the ‘South Latitudes’.

‘The Transit 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, London, 2003

Tahiti in the southern hemisphere was a logical choice from where to observe and record the event if, as predicted by Edmond Halley, planet Venus did indeed pass across the face of the sun on 3 June 1769.

Endeavour’s voyage to Tahiti might best be described as a ‘piggy-back’ joint venture.

The Royal Society did send William Wales and John Dymond ‘men of science’  to the icy north to observe the Transit from Hudson’s Bay.

However the Society alone could not finance the Tahiti expedition. The Admiralty agreed to supply a ship, Cook its commander and a Royal Navy crew.

In truth the Transit was a smoke-screen. Government always intended to discretely extend the Tahiti voyage.

‘Secret Admiralty orders’ sent Endeavour south to search for the fabled Great South Land ‘down under’.

THE BACK STORY

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

As early as 1716 Halley of comet fame 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.

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Here the reigns of five (5) English Kings –  Charles I (1625-1649)  Charles II (1660-1685) George I (1714 -1727) George II (1727 -1760) George III (1760-1820) – almost continual win-lose warfare, defeat in colonial revolution  (1775-1783) and the invasion of New Holland 1788 intersect.

London 1649 – 30 January:  In 1649 King Charles I of England and Scotland was beheaded in Whitehall.

Westminster 1649 – 19 May: An Act of Parliament passed in May 1649 declared England a Commonwealth of Nations – England Ireland and Scotland under Oliver Cromwell.

Scone:  Following his father’s execution, Heir Apparent Prince Charles fled to Scotland where at Scone he was (1650) crowned King of Scotland.

Worcester – September 1651: Charles led a Scots’ army in the invasion of England. They were defeated by Oliver Cromwell’s parliamentarians at Worcester on 3 September, 1651.

British Isles – 1653: Oliver Cromwell was installed as Lord Protector of the Commonwealth in 1653. He held the position until his death in 1658.

‘During his five-year reign, [as Protector] Oliver Cromwell had done what no other ruler in English history had done. He had secured the British Isles as a single state including Scotland and Ireland, and secured England’s future as a colonial trading empire.

 Above all he had built an English navy which in number and quality of ships,  in its finances and administration, in its officers and men, and in its global reach was superior to any in the world’. Arthur Herman, To Rule The Waves, Houghton & Stoughton, London, 2005

During Oliver Cromwell’s rule Jews, who had been driven out of England by King Edward I in 1290, were formally readmitted.

As Cromwell intended their return invigorated the Commonwealth’s flagging economy ‘and secured England’s future as colonial trading empire’.

After the Scots defeat at Worcester Charles fled to the continent. He lived in exile for nine (9) years firstly in France. Later, when the French sided with Cromwell, Charles moved to the Netherlands.

1658 – 3 September: Oliver Cromwell ‘mighty general [of] The Parliamentary Revolution who, in 1649 drove the beheading of King Charles I at the Palace of Westminster, died in his bed of natural causes in September 1658.

Cromwell’s own macabre dead-heading had yet to come.

‘The ability to shock  bestows a kind of power’. Frances Larson, Severed, A History of Heads Lost and Heads Found, Granta, London 214

After  Cromwell’s death and, following the failure of his son Richard to maintain Britain as a Commonwealth under The Protectorate, Prince Charles was invited to return to England and restore the Monarchy.

Holland – February 1660: Samuel Pepys the celebrated diarist sailed to Holland with his uncle Edward Montague. Their mission was to retrieve the now thirty (30) year old Prince Charles.

Prince Charles on his way to triumphant re- entry into London,  antagonist and protagonist passed each other on the high seas, Richard Cromwell fleeing to a long exile in France.

Westminster May 1660:  With  ‘pomp and circumstance’ Prince Charles was crowned King Charles II of England Ireland and of Scotland the land of his father’s birth.

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New York: Captain Robert Holmes who piloted the retrieval voyage went on to snatch New York (New Amsterdam) from the Dutch.

Montague, later first Earl of Sandwich, made marines an integral arm of the Naval Service. He was killed in a sea battle during the third Anglo-Dutch war.

Samuel Pepys is regarded as the father of Britain’s modern Royal Navy. According to Arthur Herman, To Rule the Waves, Pepys was ‘a skilled bureaucrat who could subdue critics with a relentless barrage of facts and figures’.

England – 1712: Richard Cromwell returned to England in secret and, lived incognito as Richard Clarke, until his death in 1712.

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France, like England a maritime nation, had particular interest in the ‘The Art of Navigation’. In the 1660s King Louis XIV established the French Royal Observatory and Royal Academy of Sciences.

England’s Charles II, having spent considerable time in France, was well aware the French king continued to pour immense resources into the sciences.

England – 1674: After the turmoil of England’s Civil Wars and Cromwell’s Protectorate, Charles II was forced to play catch-up on the science front.

To that end in 1674 he commissioned Christopher Wren, the celebrated architect and astronomer, plan a Royal Observatory.

Wren, fresh from designing the rebuild of St Paul’s Cathedral destroyed in the 1666 Great Fire of London, selected Greenwich Castle as perfectly placed ‘for perfecting the Art of Navigation’.

Although the castle had been destroyed by Cromwell’s Model Army during the Civil War its solid foundations were intact.

As with St. Paul’s in 1666 on the Observatory build, Wren relied on the surveying expertise of the celebrated Robert Hooke a professor of geometry.

Greenwich -1675: Construction of the Observatory began in July 1675. Remarkably in just one (1) year the Royal Greenwich Observatory was up and running.

1676: The King appointed Rev. John Flamsteed Britain’s first Astronomer Royal. He held that exalted position for forty-five (45) years until his death in 1720.

However Flamsteed’s long tenure was plagued by bitter controversy centred on his life’s work – Lunar Tables and a Star Catalog. numbering upwards of 3000 stars.

Flamsteed, a perfectionist, refused to publish until absolutely satisfied of the accuracy of his Tables on which so many sailors’ lives depended.

Two (2) personages whose stars remain luminous in today’s world of science – Sir Isaac Newton and Edmond Halley had no such qualms. They purloined Flamsteed’s writings had them printed and without attribution published.

Not until after his death (1720) were Flamsteed’s writings published under his own name. To add insult to injury, although Flamsteed could not have known, King George I (1714-27)  appointed Halley to succeed as Astronomer Royal.

Greenwich 1720–42: Halley’s tenure of twenty-two (22) years was coloured by continuing accusations over the double-dealing and plagiarism linked to his and Newton’s nefarious dealings with Flamsteed.

These two (2) men faced the same problem as Flamsteed. How to accurately determine longitude when ships were at sea beyond sight of land?

Here again Robert Hooke (1635-1703) who as early as 1655 introduced English clock-makers to an improved pendulum. Wren’s collaborator spent much energy in an attempt to conquer time-keeping.

In his effort to produce a time-keeper that would achieve the Holy Grail, determining longitude at sea, the ‘gifted instrument-maker’  introduced the ‘balance spring’.

Paris:  Meanwhile in France Christiaan Huygens of Holland, now in the employ of the French King Louis XIV, was making similar progress.

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The Yorkshire artisan’s H-1 marine chronometer had as early as 1736-37 on a supervised voyage to Lisbon in HMS Centurian,  shown itself capable of determining a ship’s position in relation to the land. See: Malicious Maskelyne  and  Lotto and Longitude 

Is it not ironic then that in 1768, as HMS Endeavour was being made ready for Tahiti and into the southern oceans; ‘H-4 [was] bolted to a window seat in the [Greenwich] Observatory’.

The robust jealousies and in-fighting among scientists of Flamsteed and Newton’s day were still centred on Lunar Tables and Star Catalog versus a reliable mechanical time-keeper? See: The Third Man Charles Green

Although Hooke held the clock offered ‘a certain way of determining longitude’ and ‘John Harrison [had] solved the problem of longitude in 1759’  Newton and Halley hitched their wagon to the stars.

Greenwich: As did the fifth Astronomer Royal Rev. Nevil Maskelyne appointed in1765. He persecuted John Harrison who ‘wrested the world’s whereabouts from the stars, and locked the secret in a pocket-watch’.  Sobel. op.cit

It was Maskelyne who withheld H-4 from astronomer Charles Green who died at sea during Endeavour’s return voyage to England.

 EPILOGUE

‘Above all he [Pepys] had built an English navy which in number and quality of ships ,in its finances and administration, in its officers and men, and in its global reach was superior to any in the world…and secured England’s future as a colonial trading empire’.  Arthur Herman To Rule The Waves. op.cit.

The invasion of New Holland in 1788, post Britain’s defeat in the American Revolutionary War of Independence (1775-1783) reached into the southern hemisphere and saved a failing Britain and again ‘secured England’s future as a colonial trading empire’.  Proximity Not Distance Drove Britain’s Invasion of New Holland

 

 

 

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