Book Review-‘The History of Celestial Navigation: Rise of the Royal Observatory and nautical almanacs’ by P. K. Seidelmann and C. Y. Hohenkerk (eds

By Wolfgang Köberer, published May 2021


Celestial navigation appeared to be dead more than two decades ago with the advent of satellite navigation. The decision of the US government to make GPS available to civilian users and the appearance of affordable GPS receivers rendered celestial methods as obsolete as the lunar distance method that more than a hundred years ago was made obsolete by chronometers. Nevertheless, at the same time interest in celestial navigation revived, in part due to a popular but lopsided story about ‘a lone genius’ who purportedly achieved a solution to the longitude problem singlehandedly, and one that the best minds of his time had not been able to solve. Parallel to this renewed interest of the general public, academic research in the development of nautical astronomy and its scientific, cultural and societal preconditions and environment in France, Portugal, Spain and the UK intensified. The present volume must be seen in this context…

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