Prize part of longitude's history on sale

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It was the great scientific contest of the 18th century – a £20,000 prize promised to anyone who could solve the thorny navigational problem of calculating longitude – and in 1765, John Harrison was convinced that he had won it.

His H4 marine chronometer, the fourth version of a “Great Sea Clock” he had designed to keep perfect time in ocean conditions, had been successfully tested on not one but two intercontinental voyages. But still Parliament’s Board of Longitude refused to pay up.

Harrison’s indignant response was to publish an 18-page pamphlet of protest, addressed to “the Commissioners constituted for the Discovery of the Longitude at Sea”. Today, one of the very few surviving copies of the document’s first edition will go on sale at Bloomsbury Auctions in London. The only other copy to be auctioned in the past 30 years was sold for $90,000 (£56,000).

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