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Maskelyne: Astronomer Royal

Biography / Memoir

By: Rebekah Higgett(Editor)

Robert Hale

Hardback | Nov 2014 | #222374 | ISBN-13: 9780719809125
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NHBS Price: £18.99 $25/€22 approx

About this book

Nevil Maskelyne (1732-1811) was a hugely significant figure in the worlds of British science and maritime exploration. His high international standing and wide influence have in many ways been unfairly overlooked as his story has come to be dominated by his role in the campaign waged by John Harrison, the clockmaker, for a larger reward for his pioneering marine timekeepers. Maskelyne was, however, involved in all the key projects of eighteenth-century astronomy. These included ambitious expeditions to observe the transits of Venus, experiments designed to establish the shape and 'weight' of the Earth, the remaking of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, and the survey of new lands on voyages of scientific exploration.

The essays in Maskelyne: Astronomer Royal allow us to appreciate Maskelyne's role in these projects and to gain a new perspective on the decisions he made with the Board of Longitude. They reveal a conscientious individual, close to friends and family, with a deep sense of commitment to his work and those who depended on him for a living. These essays are written by experts in the history of science and the collections of the National Maritime Museum, which, along with the Royal Observatory, is now part of Royal Museums Greenwich. They give new insight into Maskelyne's world, looking at his interactions with colleagues, rivals and employees, and exploring the buildings in which he lived and worked.


Introduction (Rebekah Higgit)

1. Revisiting and revising Maskelyne's reputation (Rebekah Higgitt)
Case Study A. The longitude problem (Rebekah Higgitt)
2. The Rev. Mr. Nevil Maskelyne, F.R.S. and myself': the story of Robert Waddington (Jim Bennett)
Case Study B. The projects of eighteenth-century astronomy (Rebekah Higgitt)
3. Maskelyne the manager (Nicky Reeves)
Case Study C. The Astronomer Royal at Greenwich (Rebekah Higgitt)
4. Nevil Maskelyne and his human computers (Mary Croarken)
Case Study D. Maskelyne and the marine timekeeper (Rebekah Higgitt)
5. Maskelyne's time (Rory McEvoy)
Case Study E. Instruments of exploration (Rebekah Higgitt)
6. 'Humble servants', 'loving friends', and Nevil Maskelyne's invention of the Board of Longitude (Alexi Baker)
Case Study F. The Royal Society and Georgian science (Rebekah Higgitt)
7. Friend and foe: The tempestuous relationship between Nevil Maskelyne and Joseph Banks (Caitlin Homes)
Case Study G. Visualizing and collecting the Maskelynes (Rebekah Higgitt)
8. The Maskelynes at home (Amy Miller)
Coda: A life well lived

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Rebekah Higgitt is a lecturer in the history of science at the University of Kent, having been a curator at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, and the National Maritime Museum for five years. She is fascinated by the history of the evolving relationship between science, government and the public. As well as having published academic works on the history of science, Rebekah writes regularly for the Guardian Science Blogs network. She is one of the curators working on a major exhibition on the story of longitude at the National Maritime Museum and is co-author of a book that accompanies the exhibition.

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