Quotes from Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time

Dava Sobel ·  192 pages

Rating: (45K votes)


“He wrested the world's whereabouts from the stars, and locked the secret in a pocket watch.”
― Dava Sobel, quote from Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time


“Time is to clock as mind is to brain. The clock or watch somehow contains the time. And yet time refuses to be bottled up like a genie stuffed in a lamp. Whether it flows as sand or turns on wheels within wheels, time escapes irretrievably, while we watch. Even when the bulbs of the hourglass shatter, when darkness withholds the shadow from the sundial, when the mainspring winds down so far that the clock hands hold still as death, time itself keeps on. The most we can hope a watch to do is mark that progress. And since time sets its own tempo, like a heartbeat or an ebb tide, timepieces don't really keep time. They just keep up with it, if they're able.”
― Dava Sobel, quote from Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time


“With his marine clocks, John Harrison tested the waters of space-time. He succeeded, against all odds, in using the fourth—temporal—dimension to link points on the three-dimensional globe. He wrested the world’s whereabouts from the stars, and locked the secret in a pocket watch.”
― Dava Sobel, quote from Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time


“Any clock that can track this sideral schedule proves itself as perfect as God's magnificent clockwork.

Dava Sobel”
― Dava Sobel, quote from Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time


“One degree of longitude equals four minutes of time the world over, but in terms of distance, one degree shrinks from sixty-eight miles at the Equator to virtually nothing at the poles.”
― Dava Sobel, quote from Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time



“The zero-degree parallel of latitude is fixed by the laws of nature, while the zero-degree meridian of longitude shifts like the sands of time.”
― Dava Sobel, quote from Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time


“Having established itself securely on shipboard, the chronometer was soon taken for granted, like any other essential thing, and the whole question of its contentious history, along with the name of its original inventor, dropped from the consciousness of the seamen who used it every day.”
― Dava Sobel, quote from Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time


“The British Parliament, in its famed Longitude Act of 1714, set the highest bounty of all, naming a prize equal to a king’s ransom (several million dollars in today’s currency) for a “Practicable and Useful” means of determining longitude.”
― Dava Sobel, quote from Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time


“Earlier maps had underestimated the distances to other continents and exaggerated the outlines of individual nations. Now global dimensions could be set, with authority, by the celestial spheres. Indeed, King Louis XIV of France, confronted with a revised map of his domain based on accurate longitude measurements, reportedly complained that he was losing more territory to his astronomers than to his enemies.”
― Dava Sobel, quote from Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time


“In the wake of the Longitude Act, the concept of “discovering the longitude” became a synonym for attempting the impossible.”
― Dava Sobel, quote from Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time



“Today, the latitude and longitude lines govern with more authority than I could have imagined forty-odd years ago, for they stay fixed as the world changes its configuration underneath them—with continents adrift across a widening sea, and national boundaries repeatedly redrawn by war or peace.”
― Dava Sobel, quote from Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time


“the beaches. In literally hundreds of instances, a vessel’s ignorance of her longitude led swiftly to her destruction. Launched on a mix of bravery and greed, the sea captains of the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries relied on “dead reckoning” to gauge their distance east or west of home port. The captain would throw a log overboard and observe how quickly the ship receded from this temporary guidepost. He noted the crude speedometer reading in his ship’s logbook, along with the direction of travel, which he took from the stars or a compass, and the length of time on a particular course, counted with a sandglass or a pocket watch. Factoring in the effects of ocean currents, fickle winds, and errors in judgment, he then determined his longitude. He routinely missed his mark, of course—searching”
― Dava Sobel, quote from Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time


“He wrested the world’s whereabouts from the stars, and locked the secret in a pocket watch.”
― Dava Sobel, quote from Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time


“Уверяют, будто Людовик XIV, увидев новые карты своих владений, основанные на точном определении долготы, посетовал, что геодезисты отняли у него больше земель, чем неприятель.”
― Dava Sobel, quote from Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time


“Time is to clock as mind is to brain. The clock or watch somehow contains the time. And yet time refuses to be bottled up like a genie stuffed in a lamp. Whether it flows as sand or turns on wheels within wheels, time escapes irretrievably, while we watch. Even when the bulbs of the hourglass shatter, when darkness withholds the shadow from the sundial, when the mainspring winds down so far that the clock hands hold still as death, time itself keeps on.”
― Dava Sobel, quote from Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time



About the author

Dava Sobel
Born place: in The United States
Born date June 15, 1947
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