Thomas Earnshaw’s troublesome chronometer

As Ships, Clocks & Stars makes its way round the world, there’s still time to look at the stories behind some of the objects in the exhibition. If you go see it now at the Folger Shakespeare Library, one of the objects you may come across is chronometer number 512,…

Ceylon, Crusoe and Cannabis

One of the myriad interesting life stories from the history of British seafaring is that of Robert Knox (1641-1720). Knox’s eventful life encompassed more than nineteen years of captivity in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and a popular published account thereof, service with the English East India Company and mercantile fleets,…

Reaching for the moon

To make sense of the novel eighteenth-century methods for longitude determination at sea, whether chronometric or through the use of lunar distances, we need also to recognize the unevenness of these new methods’ use on board ship. Historians often seem to spend much more time marking heroic innovations than in…