Posts Tagged ‘astronomer’

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 in 1714 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 longitude at sea.

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CAPTAIN COOK CAUGHT SHORT 

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

The Royal Society had accepted the recommendation of the Astronomer [Royal ] that [Dalrymple] the well-known hydrographer of the Pacific should be chosen as ‘a proper Person to be sent to the South Seas’. H.C. Cameron, Sir Joseph Banks, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1968

The Admiralty however would have none of Alexander Dalrymple a Fellow of the Royal Society who Rev. Nevil Maskelyne, Britain’s Astronomer Royal, adjudged ‘a proper Person to be sent to the South Seas’.

Instead Admiralty chose James Cook a lowly Warrant Officer of the Royal Navy to replace Dalrymple as Chief Observer of the Transit of Venus at Tahiti an event predicted to occur in early June 1769. See: Malicious Maskelyne 

‘[Cook] Whose remarkable qualities as a seaman and as a navigator and cartographer the Admiralty had learned to value because of his outstanding service in the operation under [General] Wolfe in Canada [Seven Years War 1756-1763]. Cameron. ibid. 

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MALICIOUS MASKELYNE

Monday, August 14th, 2017

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

A century later, between 1760 and 1820 under the patronage of King George III, the Society flowered into one of the world’s most celebrated scientific institutions.

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 report on the phenomenon.

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.

‘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

Royal money was forthcoming for it was clear accurate and reliable navigation could equate with domination over the seas. Domination would expedite expansion of territory and trade and likely assure victory in war.

‘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

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AUSTRALIA – BRITAIN BY A SHORT HALF-HEAD: CAPTAIN ARTHUR PHILLIP & COMTE JEAN-FRANCOISE LA PEROUSE

Tuesday, April 4th, 2017

‘From the coast of China it [New Holland] lies not more than about a thousand leagues and nearly the same distance from the East Indies, from the Spice Islands about seven hundred leagues, and near a month’s run from the Cape of Good Hope…or suppose we were again involved  in a war with Spain, here are ports of shelter and refreshment for our ships, should it be necessary to sent any into the South Sea’. Admiral Sir George, Historical Records of New South Wales. Vol.1

Captain Louis Antoine de Bougainville’s A Voyage Round the World published in 1771; ‘raised the stakes in the race to see who would open up the Pacific first’. Arthur Herman, To Rule The Waves, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 2005

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