Professor Richard de Grijs (KIAA/PKU) recently completed his latest monograph, 'Time and Time Again: Determination of Longitude at Sea in the 17th Century.' Published as part of the Institute of Physics' Expanding Physics series of high-quality texts from leading voices on key areas in physics, the book is primarily based on collections of 18th Century letters that have not been combined into a single volume before.
Determination of one's longitude at sea has perplexed sailors for many centuries. The significant uptake of world trade in the 17th and 18th Centuries rendered the increasingly urgent need to solve the 'Longitude Problem' an issue of strategic national importance. Historical accounts of these efforts often focus almost exclusively on John Harrison's role in 18th Century Britain. De Grijs's book starts, instead, from Galileo Galilei's late-16th Century development of an accurate pendulum clock, which was first achieved in practice in the mid-17th Century by Christiaan Huygens in the Dutch Republic. The open, tolerant and transparent conditions in the 17th Century Dutch Republic allowed the nation to play a pivotal role in the international network of humanists and scholars before and during the 'scientific revolution.'
A foreword written by New York Times best-selling author Dava Sobel (Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time, 1995) and extensive introductory chapters on the history of mapmaking, the establishment of the world's reference meridian at Greenwich Observatory, the rise of the scientific enterprise, and the onset of journal publishing provide the appropriate context for non-expert readers to fully engage with the book's main subject matter.
Online book: http://iopscience.iop.org/book/978-0-7503-1194-6