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Earth's Magnetism in the Age of Sail

A. R. T. Jonkers

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From about 1600 to 1800 scientists and mariners made increasingly sophisticated attempts to understand the earth's magnetic field and use it in navigation. Europeans had long understood the difference between magnetic and true north, but why did it vary as one traversed the sea? Could this variation be used to pinpoint longitude? Drawing on a wealth of unpublished sources—including manuals, treatises, sailing directions, and logbooks in a half-dozen languages—A. R. T. Jonkers explores these early efforts both for what they reveal about the history of science and navigation and as a unique...

From about 1600 to 1800 scientists and mariners made increasingly sophisticated attempts to understand the earth's magnetic field and use it in navigation. Europeans had long understood the difference between magnetic and true north, but why did it vary as one traversed the sea? Could this variation be used to pinpoint longitude? Drawing on a wealth of unpublished sources—including manuals, treatises, sailing directions, and logbooks in a half-dozen languages—A. R. T. Jonkers explores these early efforts both for what they reveal about the history of science and navigation and as a unique record of the actual changes in the earth's magnetic field. The result, a masterful combination of science and history, will appeal to a broad audience of specialists as well as general readers.

Reviews

Reviews

A fascinating tale at the interface of geophysics, maritime history, and the history of science... A remarkable blend of scientific and historical scholarship.

This book illuminates a dark corner of history and science from a unique and well-grounded perspective. By choosing to examine the natural phenomenon of Earth's magnetism within a historical context, A. R. T. Jonkers has found a way to lend both interest and accessibility to what otherwise could be an esoteric topic. Engaging, highly readable, and well written with sound scholarship, Earth's Magnetism in the Age of Sail is a valuable and original contribution to the history of science.

Jonkers has provided a truly interdisciplinary study that will be accessible to scientists as well as historians.

In this ambitious work, the author sets out to rescue from obscurity the thousands of measurements of magnetic declination made by European sailors in the early modern period... The monumental contribution of information and insight brought by this study... will bear fruit well into the future.

This book is an exceptional achievement. A superb study at the interface of geophysics, maritime history, and the history of ideas. Jonkers has dared to take on the exacting task of crossing the boundaries between the natural sciences and the humanities, and he has succeeded brilliantly.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
320
ISBN
9780801871320
Illustration Description
32 b&w illus.
Table of Contents

List of Figures and Tables
Acknowledgments
Note on Spelling and Other Conventions
List of Abbreviations
Introduction. Merging Geomagnetism and History
Part I. Earth's Magnetism
Chapter 1. The Earth's

List of Figures and Tables
Acknowledgments
Note on Spelling and Other Conventions
List of Abbreviations
Introduction. Merging Geomagnetism and History
Part I. Earth's Magnetism
Chapter 1. The Earth's Magnetic Field
Chapter 2. The Age of Diversity: Geomagnetism before 1600
Chapter 3. The Age of Discord: Geomagnetism in the Seventeenth Century
Chapter 4. The Age of Data: Geomagnetism in the Eighteenth Century
Part II. In the Age of Sail
Chapter 5. Traversing the Trackless Oceans
Chapter 6. Following in Iron Arrow
Chapter 7. Plotting the Third CoordinateConclusion: Quantifying Geomagnetic Navigation
Appendix
Chronology of Geomagnetic Hypotheses
Notes
Essay on Sources
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

A. R. T. Jonkers

A. R. T. Jonkers is University Fellow in the department of earth sciences at the University of Liverpool.