Longitude – Guide


 About the Author

Dava Sobel
Dava Sobel

The publication of Longitude in 1995 – and its unexpected success – transformed me into a full-time author of books. I greatly enjoy the more in-depth research required for book-length projects. Someone once said to me,  “I would hate your job. It’s like writing one college term paper after another.” That’s exactly what it’s like, and exactly what I love best about it. [read more]



 Then and Now



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Why The Prime Meridian Isn’t At 0º

If you travel to Greenwich, stand on the famous Prime Meridian Line — which is marked with a physical line and a sculpture at the Royal Observatory — and look at your GPS, it won’t read 0° longitude. It’ll be slightly out. Who’s right? And why?  


Discussion Questions

Activity:  Snowballs!

Each person writes one question on a piece of paper. then crumples it into a “snowball”. The question should have a definite answer in the book. Divide the group into teams then throw the “snowballs” at the opposing teams. Each team works together to quickly answer the questions in a given amount of time.  Books may be used to find answers but no Googling, please.

When the time is up, everyone comes back together to discuss the answers. Correct answers score 2 points, 1 point for partial credit answers, and 0 points for incorrect answers. The team with the highest score wins.


Here are a few questions our members “threw” out there:

1.  Who was the young medical student that used a pendulum to measure pulses?

2.  What was the name of the first Royal Astronomer who supported Harrison?

3.  How many years in total did Harrison devote to solving the longitude problem (from the time he heard of the contest until H5 was accepted)?

4.  Why did the Astronomer Royal and the association become defensive with Harrison to the point that they seized his devices?


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