Papers of Nevil Maskelyne : Extracts from Board of Longitude minutes

Papers of Nevil Maskelyne

<p>These 12 sheets of notes are in the hand of the Astronomer Royal <a href='/search?keyword=Nevil%20Maskelyne'>Nevil Maskelyne</a>, copying sections of the minutes of the Board of Longitude [<a href='/view/MS-RGO-00014-00005/1'>RGO 14/5</a>] from the meetings held between 1737-1761. Every meeting between those dates is recorded, all but one including a list of which commissioners were in attendance. The majority are copied 'verbatim,' as Maskelyne notes [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(2);return false;'>2</a>] at the end of each section, especially the parts that relate to the clockmaker <a href='/search?keyword=John%20Harrison'>John Harrison</a>. The only parts that are 'abridged,' as he also notes himself [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(3);return false;'>3</a>], relate to the Board voting money [<a href='/view/MS-RGO-00014-00005/10'>RGO 14/5:6</a>] to <a href='/search?keyword=William%20Whiston'>William Whiston</a> to map the British Coast in 1741, and the rejection of proposals [<a href='/view/MS-RGO-00014-00005/19'>RGO 14/5:15</a>] from <a href='/search?keyword=J.%20Hardy'>J. Hardy</a> and <a href='/search?keyword=Richard%20Heaton'>Richard Heaton</a> in 1747. He also omits from the 1741 minutes [<a href='/view/MS-RGO-00014-00005/13'>RGO 14/5:9</a>] a proposal from <a href='/search?keyword=Mr%20Graham%20F.R.S.'>Mr Graham F.R.S.</a> sent via <a href='/search?keyword=Sir%20John%20Norris'>Sir John Norris</a>. He does, however, include the 1756 minutes [<a href='/view/MS-RGO-00014-00005/24'>RGO 14/5:20</a>] regarding the tables sent by <a href='/search?keyword=Professor%20Tobias%20Mayer'>Professor Tobias Mayer</a> for calculating lunar distance.</p> <p>These extracts therefore focus almost exclusively on the Board's interactions with Harrison. They record the voting of repeated sums of money to Harrison, his work on the four timekeepers H1 [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/79139.html'><img title="Link to RMG" alt='RMG icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>] , H2 [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/79140.html'><img title="Link to RMG" alt='RMG icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>] , H3 [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/79141.html'><img title="Link to RMG" alt='RMG icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>] and H4 [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/79142.html'><img title="Link to RMG" alt='RMG icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>] and the early stages of setting up the first trial to the West Indies in 1761. Interestingly, Maskelyne mis-records [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(11);return false;'>11</a>] the sum of money voted to Harrison in 1760 as £250 rather than £500. The extracts cut off [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(12);return false;'>12</a>] mid-way through the minutes of the meeting [<a href='/view/MS-RGO-00014-00005/33'>RGO 14/5:29</a>] in June 1761, before the point when the <a href='/search?keyword=Royal%20Society'>Royal Society</a> were asked to comment on Harrison's proposal for how the trial should be carried out. It is therefore possible that Maskelyne also made extracts of later meetings which have not survived. All of the meetings that he records took place before 1763, when he participated in the second trial of H4, and 1765 when he became Astronomer Royal, and therefore a Commissioner of Longitude. These extracts may therefore have been in order to apprise himself of the activities of the Board before his membership.</p> <p>From 1765, Harrison also saw Maskelyne as an enemy on the Board who supported the lunar distance method and therefore contributed to the obstacles put in the way of Harrison's timekeepers winning the 'great reward.' The Barrington Papers [<a href='/view/MS-BGN-00000/1'>BGN</a>] at the National Maritime Museum, show how the Board had to defend this stance during the passage of the 1765 Act [<a href='/view/MS-RGO-00014-00001/57'>RGO 14/1:29r</a>], to clarify Harrison's position in relation to the reward. Likewise, in 1767, Maskelyne published two commentaries on Harrison's timekeepers, on behalf of the Board, in which he carefully justified his and the Board's positions. Notes both for [<a href='/view/MS-RGO-00004-00152/1'>RGO 4/152</a>] the <i>Principles of Mr. Harrison's Time-keeper</i> and for <i>An Account of the Going of Mr. John Harrison's Watch</i> ( [<a href='/view/MS-RGO-00004-00152/1'>RGO 4/152</a>]) are also included among the Maskelyne papers. The extracts in this volume might therefore equally have been made as a personal record by Maskelyne, of Harrison's dealings with the Board. A note in the margins [<a href='/view/MS-RGO-00014-00005/14'>RGO 14/5:10</a>] of the Board's minutes from the meeting in 1746 records that Maskelyne 'has' the petition from Harrison there discussed. This helps to build the picture of his careful analysis of Harrison's history with the Board of Longitude.</p> <p>Katy Barrett<br />History and Philosophy of Science<br />University of Cambridge<br /> </p>


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