Article ID: CBB810066516

European longitude prizes. 2: Astronomy, religion and engineering solutions in the Dutch Republic (2021)


The late-sixteenth century witnessed a major expansion of Dutch shipping activity from northern European waters to the Indian Ocean and beyond. At a time when the Renaissance had just arrived on the North Sea's shores, scientist-scholars, navigators and merchants alike realised the urgent need for and potential profitability of developing a practical means of longitude determination at sea. Under pressure of early adopters, including Petrus Plancius and Simon Stevin, on 1 April 1600 the national government of the Dutch Republic announced a generous longitude prize, which would see gradual increases in value over the next two centuries. In addition to leading thinkers like Galileo and Christiaan Huygens, the Low Countries spawned major talent in pursuit of a longitude solution. Their solutions reached well beyond applications of the ephemerides of Jupiter's moons or the development of a stable marine timepiece. Studies of the Earth's magnetic field, lunar distances, astronomical observations combined with simple trigonometry and the design of a 'golden compass' all pushed the nation's maritime capabilities to a higher level. Dutch efforts to 'find East and West' were unparalleled and at least as insightful as those pursued elsewhere on the continent.

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Authors & Contributors
Grijs, Richard de
Hilster, Nicolàs de
Morfouli, Meropi
Jacob, Andrew P.
Hohenkerk, Catherine Y.
Peeravit Koad
Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage
Archives Internationales d'Histoire des Sciences
The Mariner's Mirror
Journal for the History of Astronomy
Histoire & Mesure
British Society for the History of Mathematics Bulletin
IOP Publishing Ltd
Presses Universitaires de Rennes
Vrije Universiteit te Amsterdam (Netherlands)
Longitude and latitude
Nautical astronomy
Instruments, navigational
Applied mathematics
Time measurement
Picard, Jean-Françoise
La Hire, Philippe de
Longomontanus, Christian Severin
Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm von
Lacaille, Nicolas Louis de
Kepler, Johannes
Time Periods
18th century
17th century
19th century
16th century
United Kingdom
New England (U.S.)
United States
South Africa
Royal Observatory, Cape of Good Hope
Académie Royale des Sciences (France)
University of St. Andrews

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