I continue the expression of my science wonkiness with Longitude. This is a historical account of solving the “Longitude Problem” of the 18th century. When sailing, it’s easy to tell your latitude (i.e. your North/South position) if you know the date and can measure the height of the sun above the horizon at local noon. It was far difficult to figure out your longitude. It was so difficult that the English government established a Board of Longitude and offered significant money for a good solution to the problem.
This book describes the problem clearly, and describes both the scientific and political problems associated with finding the solution. As usual, when money, opinions and politics meet, the people who perform the real work often get screwed by the system.
A good read.