The quest for longitude: the men who mapped the surface of the earth

For sailors and seamen in the 18th century, accurate navigation could mean the difference between life and death. In 1714, British authorities tried to tackle this problem by offering a vast reward for any man who could develop an accurate method of mapping longitude at sea. But, asks Rebekah Higgitt, was the right man given the credit for finding a solution?

An oil painting by John Cleveley The Elder depicting the Royal Naval Dockyard

This article was first published in the July 2014 issue of BBC History Magazine

The longitude conundrum

Accurate navigation, on land or at sea, relies on knowing current position as well as destination. Although determining location relative to visible landmarks is fairly straightforward, defining a position out at sea is not.

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