By the eighteenth century, the world had made great advances in science and technology. Yet no one had a scientific way of calculating the exact position of a ship at sea, a problem which resulted in thousands of deaths in shipwrecks around the world. Desperate to prevent future tragedies like the Royal Navy shipwreck off the Scilly Islands in 1707, British Parliament offered a £20,000 prize (roughly equivalent to £3 million or $4.8 million today!) to anyone who devised an accurate way of measuring longitude at sea. The world’s finest astronomers rose to the challenge, but a quick-tempered village carpenter and clockmaker set his mind to the task, as well, and created an invention that would revolutionize ocean travel for years to come.
Readers who are interested in ships, sea-faring stories, or inventors should definitely check out this fascinating non-fiction book which uses a blend of history, science, and biography to tell the story of John Harrison’s amazing clocks and his race against all odds to win the longitude prize. I would recommend The Longitude Prize especially to readers in grades 4-8.