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L

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John Harrison (24 March 1693 - 24 March 1776) was a self-educated English carpenter and later a clockmaker. He invented the marine chronometer, a long-sought device in solving the problem of establishing the East-West position or longitude of a ship at sea, thus revolutionising and extending the possibility of safe long distance sea travel in the Age of Sail.
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Experts believe that master clockmaker John Harrison must have had highly skilled help in creating his revolutionary sea clock
He was the lone genius who spent years locked away fiddling with tiny springs and coils to create the world's first global positioning instrument, and so revolutionised world travel. At least that's the official history of longitude, made famous by Dava Sobel's best-selling story of the master clockmaker John Harrison.
Now research from the Royal Observatory in Greenwich - the home of the meridian line from which longitude is measured - has cast doubt on that version of events.

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Most people know something of the events in 1714 when the British government instituted a prize for the discovery of a successful way to find longitude at sea. The aim was to reduce the heavy toll of shipwrecks caused by the crude navigational method of dead reckoning. Dava Sobel gave new life to this episode in her bestselling book, Longitude: The true story of a lone genius who solved the greatest scientific problem of his time (1995), which inspired the widely viewed television programme Lost at Sea (aired in 1998). After these came a feature film directed by Charles Sturridge in 1999, starring Michael Gambon and Jeremy Irons. All these versions place at their centre the heroic figure of John Harrison and his struggles to perfect a clock which would finally carry off the prize of 20,000. Meanwhile, an early rival who figures in the tale has gone down in history as another projector from Yorkshire, named Jeremy Thacker. Unfortunately Thacker never existed and his proposal now emerges as a hoax.

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The 18th century astronomy community's reluctance to accept the accuracy of John Harrison's clocks is not one of the highs of scientific research.



John Harrison (March 24, 1693March 24, 1776) was an English clockmaker who revolutionised and extended the possibility of safe long distance sea travel in the Age of Sail by inventing a long-sought and critically-needed key piece in the problem of accurately establishing the East-West position, or longitude, of a ship at sea. The problem was so intractable that the English Parliament offered a huge fortune for the day (20,000, roughly 6 million in 2007 terms), for a solution.

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