Odds and quads - 22 August 2013

In 1714, an Act of Parliament set a top prize of £20,000 (now worth about £1.5 million) for a method of determining a ship’s position east and west from a fixed meridian line

August 22, 2013

It also created the Board of Longitude, whose complete archive is held by Cambridge University Library and includes the logbooks of Captain James Cook’s voyages, the first Western maps and descriptions of many Pacific places and peoples, two bound volumes of schemes by eccentric inventors, described as “wild proposals resulting from dreams”, and even a letter from Captain William Bligh of HMS Bounty in which he apologises for the loss of a timekeeper after his ship was “pirated from my command”.

All this, together with associated material from the collections of the National Maritime Museum, has just been made freely available via the Cambridge Digital Library website alongside the works of Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton. The site was launched in 2010 after a £1.5 million gift from the Polonsky Foundation. The longitude collection, which consists of more than 65,000 images, was funded by Jisc.

Send suggestions for this series on the treasures, oddities and curiosities owned by universities across the world to matthew.reisz@tsleducation.com

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