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John Harrison
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Craftsman
    (March 24, 1693-March 24, 1776)
    Born in Foulby, England, United Kingdom
    Self-taught clockmaker
    Invented the marine chronometer, which made possible the determination of the longitude of a ship at sea
    British Parliament had offered a prize of 20,000 pounds for coming up with a method to determine longitude with an accuracy of 30 nautical miles or better to be tested on a trans-Atlantic voyage
    Story told in Dava Sobel's book 'Longitude' (1995)
    Portrayed by Michael Gambon in the Channel 4/A&E dramatization of 'Longitude' (1999)
    The basic principal behind the marine chronometer (if your ship has a sufficiently accurate clock set to London time, then when it is noon locally, you can calculate from the time on the clock how far you have travelled) was outlined two centuries before he went to work.
    The Board of Longitude ruled that the success of his first marine chronometer was a fluke and ordered him to repeat the test.
    Early chronometers cost about a third of what the entire ship cost.
    After a second successful trans-Atlantic test of his chronometer, he was denied the full prize due to the interference of a Board of Longitude member who was working on a rival technique.
    He had to appeal directly to King George III to get Parliament to cough up the additional payment.
    James Cook used a copy of his chronometer on his Pacific voyages and praised its accuracy.

Credit: C. Fishel


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