Books  General Natural History  General Natural History 

The Quest for the True Figure of the Earth: Ideas and Expeditions in Four Centuries of Geodesy

Series: Science, Technology and Culture, 1700-1945 series

By: Michael Rand Hoare

200 pages, 27 b&w illustrations and 13 line drawings

Ashgate Publishing Limited

Hardback | Nov 2005 | #153759 | ISBN: 0754650200
Availability: Usually dispatched within 7 days Details
NHBS Price: £70.00 $86/€79 approx

About this book

In the 1730s two expeditions set out from Paris on extraordinary journeys; the first was destined for the equatorial region of Peru, the second headed north towards the Arctic Circle. Although the eighteenth century witnessed numerous such adventures, these expeditions were different. Rather than seeking new lands to conquer or mineral wealth to exploit, their primary objectives were scientific: to determine the Earth's precise shape by measuring the variation of a degree of latitude at points separated as nearly as possible by a whole quadrant of the globe between Equator and North Pole.

Although such information had important consequences for navigation and cartography, the motivation was not simply utilitarian. Rather it was one theme among many in an intellectual revolution in which advances in mathematics paralleled philosophical strife, and reputations of the living and the dead stood to be elevated or destroyed. In particular the two expeditions hoped to prove the correctness of Isaac Newton's prediction that the Earth is not a perfect sphere, but flattened at the poles.

In this study, the 'Figure of the Earth' controversy is for the first time comprehensively explored in all its several dimensions. It shows how a largely neglected episode of European science, that produced no spectacular process or artefact - beyond a relatively minor improvement in maps - nevertheless represents an almost unique combination of theoretical prediction and empirical method. It also details the suffering of the two teams of scientists in very different extremes of climate, whose sacrifices for the sake of knowledge rather than colonial gain, caught the imagination of the of the literary world of the time.


Preface; Author's preface; A dispute in the making; Prelude to an odyssey; Some technicalities; The Lapland expedition; The Peru expedition; Meanwhile in Paris; Death and deliverance; A grievous aftermath; Once more unto the Meridian; A modern postscript; Appendices; Select reading list; Index.

Write a review

There are currently no reviews for this product. Be the first to review this product!


Dr Michael Rand Hoare is Emeritus Reader at the University of London, UK.

Bestsellers in this subject

Arboreal: A Collection of New Woodland Writing

Pre-publication offer: £16.50 £19.99 (Save £3.49) $20/€19 approx

The Moth Snowstorm

NHBS Special Offer Price: £7.50 £9.99 (Save £2.49) $9/€8 approx (ends 31/12/2016)

Collecting the New Naturalists

NHBS Price: £60.00 $73/€67 approx

Winter: An Anthology for the Changing Seasons

NHBS Price: £12.99 $16/€15 approx

Collins Complete Guide to British Coastal Wildlife

NHBS Price: £17.99 $22/€20 approx