With his extraordinary timekeepers, John Harrison solved the greatest scientific problem of the 18th century: finding longitude at sea.
For centuries, sailors had found it extremely difficult to determine their longitude (east-west position) when out of sight of land. This major problem of navigation posed a very real threat to Britain’s growing naval and merchant fleet, as well as making sea-borne exploration and charting both difficult and dangerous.
In 1714 Parliament finally agreed to offer large prizes to anyone who could provide a means of finding longitude which would be ‘practicable and useful at sea’. This film tells the exciting story of John Harrison, a Yorkshire carpenter and clockmaker, who created some of the most revolutionary timekeepers in history, solving the longitude problem and winning the prize money.
Commissioned by the National Maritime Museum and first released in 2001, this film includes interviews with Jonathan Betts, Senior Curator of Horology at Royal Museums Greenwich, and contains previously unseen close-up footage of Harrison’s timekeepers in action.
Duration approximately 45 minutes
© Royal Museums Greenwich