First published in 1923, The Marine Chronometer: Its History and Development is the long-awaited edition of the definitive reference work on the marine chronometer contains additional photographs and many of Rupert Gould’s later revisions and corrections. It deals comprehensively with the chronometers history and the earliest attempts to measure longitude while including exhaustive discussions and diagrams of the various mechanisms employed with details of their inventors. It is an extraordinary fact that the first machines capable of accurately determining a ship’s longitude, a measurement the great Sir Isaac Newton considered to be a mechanical impossibility, were invented and built by an obscure Yorkshire carpenter named John Harrison (1693 1776). Amazingly, the latter was entirely self-educated and had never served a days apprenticeship to any clockmaker. The Marine Chronometer relates the remarkable story of John Harrison’s marine timekeepers which eventually won him a 20,000 reward offered by the British Government for any method of determining a ship’s longitude. Gould also looks, in detail, at the inventions of other important scientists and pioneers such as Huygens, Thacker, Sully and Leibnitz, as well as the work of professional watchmakers including Ditisheim, Ulrich, Earnshaw, Arnold, Berthoud, Mudge and Le Roy. His fluent style and expertise allow the reader to understand technical matters that, in the hands of another writer, might prove less than clear.
Review of The Marine Chronometer: Its History and Development
Ten years short of the original The Marine Chronometer: Its History and Development’s centenary, one of the greatest books on a horological sub-genre has attained Second Edition status. First published in 1923, Gould’s masterpiece covers the topic of marine chronometers from its natural starting point: the need for the discovery of longitude. But even before you reach this stage in the book, the illuminating introduction by Jonathan Betts MBE warns you that the journey through its 400-plus pages will prove rewarding and frustrating in equal measure.
How so? Because this long-awaited second edition includes Gould’s own amendments and additions from his original annotated manuscripts. Here’s where the bibliophile in me starts salivating, for this is two books in one: the original, plus the ‘outtakes.’ What it does not do is rewrite Gould’s work in light of all that has been discovered since 1923, the editor preferring instead to provide ample annotation.
It is an ideal way of updating a work that has earned the honor of being a subject’s definitive study because the reader can savor the original as it appeared, while benefitting from superlative editing and sympathetic, respectful treatment. This is, though highly readable, an intensely technical work, certainly suitable for researchers or scholars. But do not be deterred: this book is an absolute joy. And be glad we didn’t have to wait until its centenary for this ‘re-boot.’ (Ken Kessler QP Magazine, April 15, 2013)
No book is a more complete history of the marine chronometer, even after nearly a century, and many, Jonathan Betts and Rudyard Kipling among them, consider this the finest horological work of the twentieth century. (David Rachlin, reference librarian, James E. Shepard Memorial Library, North Carolina Central University Reference Reviews, Volume 28, Number 1, 2014 Edition)