Papers of the Board of Longitude : Fair minutes

Papers of the Board of Longitude

<p>This volume contains 'fair' minutes for meetings of the Board of Longitude which took place from 30 May 1765 to 6 April 1828. It also includes documents related to the decades-long effort by the Board and the <a href='/search?keyword=Royal%20Society'>Royal Society</a> to obtain and publish the observations made at <a href='/search?keyword=Greenwich'>Greenwich</a> by the late Astronomer Royal <a href='/search?keyword=James%20Bradley'>James Bradley</a>. The fair minutes were intermediary drafts which followed the 'rough' minutes like those in volume [<a href='/view/MS-RGO-00014-00003/1'>RGO 14/3</a>]. They came before the 'confirmed' minutes found in volumes [<a href='/view/MS-RGO-00014-00005/1'>RGO 14/5</a>] through [<a href='/view/MS-RGO-00014-00008/1'>RGO 14/8</a>]. Instead of having been entirely drawn up by the Secretaries hired after 1762, the rough and ensuing fair minutes often seem to have been shaped by notes or drafts compiled by one or more of the Commissioners. In many cases, this was the Astronomer Royal, <a href='/search?keyword=Nevil%20Maskelyne'>Nevil Maskelyne</a> [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/379043.html'><img title="Link to RMG" alt='NMM icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>] , until his death in 1811. Unlike the rough minutes, the fair are often identical to the confirmed minutes. Alternatively, they are almost identical but for a small number of words having been omitted and inserted. They therefore tell us little about the internal workings and documentation of the Board.</p> <p>There are also copies of fair minutes in other collections, such as the Royal Society's Miscellaneous Manuscripts volumes 7-8. This is likely due to <a href='/search?keyword=Joseph%20Banks'>Joseph Banks</a> [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/107458.html'><img title="Link to RMG" alt='NMM icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>] having been a key Commissioner as well as the President of the Royal Society.</p> <p>The subjects of these fair minutes include: the production of ephemerides for use with the lunar-distance method, based upon observations made at Greenwich and calculations carried out by human 'computers'; the publication of the lunar tables of the <a href='/search?keyword=Hanoverian'>Hanoverian</a> mathematician <a href='/search?keyword=Tobias%20Mayer'>Tobias Mayer</a>, which were central to the improvement of the lunar-distance method, and for which the Board rewarded Mayer's widow and his collaborator <a href='/search?keyword=Leonhard%20Euler'>Leonhard Euler</a>; the annual production and printing of the Nautical Almanac and the employment of the computers; trials of new astronomical and nautical instruments; <a href='/search?keyword=William%20Garrard'>William Garrard</a>'s reduction of lunar distances to make it easier and faster to employ the method at sea; <a href='/search?keyword=E.%20Nayler'>E. Nayler</a>'s new theory of the global magnetic variation of compasses; the publication of tables of logarithms; the <a href='/search?keyword=East%20India%20Company'>East India Company</a>'s establishment of an <a href='/search?keyword=observatory'>observatory</a> at the <a href='/search?keyword=Cape%20of%20Good%20Hope'>Cape of Good Hope</a> with the keen support of Joseph Banks and the assistance of the Board; voyages in search of the north-west passage; rewards for Arctic discoveries; appointments to the Board including that of the astronomer <a href='/search?keyword=John%20Herschel'>John Herschel</a> [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/146014.html'><img title="Link to RMG" alt='NMM icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>] ; the establishment of a chronometer depot at the <a href='/search?keyword=Royal%20Observatory'>Royal Observatory</a> in Greenwich; and the production of various astronomical publications.</p> <p>This volume also contains notes, communications and publications related to the 36-year effort by the Royal Society and the Board after the death of James Bradley in 1762 to obtain his observations from his family (who were seeking financial remuneration), and to see them edited and published by <a href='/search?keyword=the%20University%20of%20Oxford'>the University of Oxford</a> after they were deposited there via the Chancellor <a href='/search?keyword=Lord%20North'>Lord North</a> [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/112427.html'><img title="Link to RMG" alt='NMM icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>] in 1776. This matter represents an important early debate over the balance between the state commissioning and funding of science and technology and the individual's right to their resulting labours, which was also an element of the conflict which eventually arose between the Board and <a href='/search?keyword=John%20Harrison'>John Harrison</a> [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/136321.html'><img title="Link to RMG" alt='NMM icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>] . These papers include: extracts [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(455);return false;'>230-237</a>] from the relevant Board minutes; drafts of a letter [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(469);return false;'>238-245</a>] from the Board in 1795 asking the <a href='/search?keyword=Duke%20of%20Portland'>Duke of Portland</a>, as Chancellor of Oxford University, to give the work of preparing and publishing Bradley's observations to someone other than the ailing Savilian Professor of Astronomy <a href='/search?keyword=Thomas%20Hornsby'>Thomas Hornsby</a>; letters [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(483);return false;'>246-259</a>] exchanged with officials at Oxford during the 1790s regarding the publication; and draft and printed chronological accounts [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(511);return false;'>260-273</a>] of the resolutions and proceedings of the Board regarding these efforts.</p> <p>Alexi Baker<br />History and Philosophy of Science<br />University of Cambridge<br /> </p>


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