LONGITUDE -- 12 ANNE cap. 14. An Act for Providing a Publick Reward for Such Person or Persons as Shall Discover the Longitude at Sea. London: John Baskett, and the assigns of Thomas Newcomb and Henry Hills, deceased, 1714.
2° (290 x 185mm). 3 leaves. Collation: \Kp\k1, Uuuu2-Xxxx1 (\Kp\k1r title, \Kp\k1v blank, Uuuu2r-Xxxx1r text, Xxxx1v blank), pp. [i-ii], 355-357 (358). Title with woodcut royal coat-of-arms, factotum initial opening text. (Occasional very light spotting and browning.) Disbound (some stitching intact).
THE ACT SPONSORING THE SEARCH FOR LONGITUDE, and one of the first examples of a reward offered by the government to stimulate scientific research. As the horizons of trade and empire expanded, long-distance navigation, dependent upon accurate measurements of longitude, became increasingly important. In 1714, the Board of Longitude was established, to judge and then reward anyone who could solve the issue of measuring longitude, predominantly for seafaring purposes. The highest reward offered by this statute was the huge sum of £20,000 (about £6 million in today's money), for a device accurate to within 30 miles after a voyage 'from Great Britain to any such Port in the West-Indies, as those Commissioners shall choose'. John Harrison's (1693-1776) practical solution to the issue was to construct a clock that could withstand difficult conditions at sea to maintain time and thereby permit calculations of longitude. He built a cumbersome marine clock which in 1737 proved accurate enough to qualify for a grant of £500 towards further experimentation. With this financial help, Harrison's fourth project conceived of a radically different timekeeper in the form of a large watch; just as accurate, and far more convenient in size, this model alone was tested on a transatlantic journey to Jamaica in 1761. Though his marine chronometer proved to be three times more accurate than was required (losing only five seconds throughout a nine-week journey), the Board of Longitude implied that the results were a fluke, and Harrison's financial rewards came in comparatively small and delayed installments. After a direct appeal to George III, Harrison forcefully petitioned Parliament in order to gain the remainder of their prize money in 1773. It may have been that the financial reward offered by this document was so great because the task was considered impossible by many leading scientists, including Newton and Huygens. Horblit 42a; Norman 2.