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Papers of John Pond : Chronometer ledger

Papers of John Pond

<p style='text-align: justify;'>This volume is representative of the many ledger records that began to be kept at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich around 1818 when entries of all timekeepers issued to the Royal Navy ships from Greenwich were entered into the chronometer ledger.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Ledgers are fantastic resources to gain an impression of the kind of formal network that was established in order to gain some control of the movement of timekeepers, and reminds us of the important managerial problems inherent in co-ordinating the distribution and location of timekeepers. With that in mind, one should be careful using these ledgers as testaments relaying the exact ship and officer to which a timekeeper had been issued, as these ledgers are from the point of view of the Greenwich Observatory, and only record with accuracy which ship/officer the timekeepers had initially been issued to and from the last place they had been. As a result, many of the timekeepers may have been transferred to other ships, to other officers, been temporarily in storage, or even broken, without an entry into the ledger.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>What the chronometer ledgers from the Observatory at Greenwich do offer us - from this period right up until the second world war - is a clear indication of the significant role the chronometer makers played in the circulation of timekeepers. As can be seen from the furthest right-hand column on each page of the ledger, there is regularly an entry stating that the chronometer had been 'returned from the makers'. This points to the important role that chronometer makers continued to play in the life of timekeepers in carrying out repairs in order to keep timekeepers working. While there would have almost certainly been a competitive incentive on the behalf of chronometer makers to want to keep their chronometers working as best as they could, it is also clear that this was a significant source of income. It is interesting to consider that in getting the chronometer to sea as a viable solution for solving the Longitude problem, a whole range of managerial and market resources had mobilised in order to manage the complex network through which timekeepers could be used.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Eóin Phillips<br />History and Philosophy of Science<br />University of Cambridge<br /></p>

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