Lincolnshire legend –
John Harrison English clockmaker extraordinaire – mechanical genius.
Born in Yorkshire in 1693 John Harrison spent his early life in the North Lincolnshire village of Barrow upon Humber.
Largely self taught, by the age of 20 he had produced, using only carpenters’ tools, an almost entirely wooden local stable clock.
Built of lignum vitae it needs no oil and is still running
270 years later with astonishing accuracy.
He solved the ‘longitude problem’ thus preventing maritime disasters that had previously resulted from faulty navigation,
by producing a timepiece that would remain accurate at sea. The Sea Clock would keep the time at the home port for comparison with local time as determined by the sun, thus allowing the calculation of longitude.
Harrison battled throughout his life against influential astronomers who scoffed at a mechanical solution to the problem, favouring celestial observations. Despite opposition
and gross unfairness, he doggedly pursued his goal of claiming
the prestigious and hugely valuable ‘longitude prize.’
This was only awarded to him as an old man and only after the intervention of the king who rectified the injustice Harrison had suffered at the hands of the Board of Longitude.
John Harrison had the mental toughness to jettison half a lifetime’s work on sea clocks and start afresh on the new concept of a watch to solve the problem.
The whole story is told with excellent illustrations in ‘The Illustrated Longitude’ Dava Sobel and William J.H. Andews, Fourth Estate, London.
Another Lincolnshire Legend. Mathew Flinders.