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Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time

Longitude is a fascinating tale about navigation: the invention that enabled us to determining longitude accurately. John Harrison, an amateur clockmaker, was convinced that he could develop a clock that was accurate enough to be used to measure longitude. Before this, navigation was a massive risk to the British Empire, and limited their ability to sail open waters confidently.

Sobel stays light on technical details, and focuses on the story of this innovation. Epistemic overconfidence, skewed scientific incentives, and theft of secrets — this has it all. It's an enjoyable read.


These are entirely subjective, and roughly try to capture my personal enjoyment and usefulness, and how likely I'd recommend it to others. Don't read too much into this unless you love my judgement. Rough guidelines:

A: Top quartile. Changed the way I think about something.

B: Worthwhile. I took away something useful.

C: Didn't hit, wouldn't directly recommend. Likely won't revisit.

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