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Papers of the Board of Longitude : Accounts relating to the connection of the trigonometrical operations for uniting the coasts of England and France

Papers of the Board of Longitude

<p style='text-align: justify;'>This volume of the Board's accounts covers the activities surrounding the 1821 - 1823 attempt at a connection between English and French coastal surveys and is a separate volume of financial accounts from the general accounts contained in volumes, <a href='/view/MS-RGO-00014-00002'> (RGO 14/2)</a> and <a href='/view/MS-RGO-00014-00015'> (RGO 14/15)</a>. This small focused volume gives insight into the practicalities of organising a trigonometric survey. With these highly detailed itemised accounts we can see the everyday difficulties of conducting the 1821 coastal survey between Dover and Calais. For example, notes on the <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage();return false;'> marching money and field pay of soldiers (RGO 14/21:10)</a> from the Royal Artillery supplied by the Duke of Wellington (see <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>portraits</a> at the National Portrait Gallery), Master General of the Ordnance, from the 29th of July to the 13th of November 1822. Also included are bills and receipts for <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage();return false;'> coal, oil, cooking utensils (RGO 14/21:84)</a>, <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage();return false;'> wood, station houses (RGO 14/21:144)</a> and personal expenses of Major Thomas Fredrick Colby, as well as the apparatus needed to conduct the survey itself, for example <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage();return false;'> several tents (RGO 14/21:182)</a>, an observation book, candles and tape.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>It is clear to see that at the start of the nineteenth century this kind of work is absorbing a noticeable part of the Board's budget; salaries, expeditions and experiments take over from rewards as the Board's major expense. The field survey of 1821 was one of the earlier large scale projects funded by the Board of Longitude as redefined by the 1818 Longitude Act, happening four months after Parry [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''><img title="Link to RMG" alt='RMG icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>] set sail for the second time in search of the North West Passage. Major Thomas Colby was deputed by the Royal Society and the Board of Longitude to work alongside <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>Captain Henry Kater</a>, and with Arago and Matthieu representing the French Institute, to substantiate the observations made in 1790 that attempted to connect the meridians of Greenwich and Paris. The results of the 1821 efforts are found in the Philosophical Transactions (see <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>Philsophical Transactions Archive</a> at the The Royal Society)for 1828 in an article by Kater. For the observations across the Channel between Folkestone and Calais at night, Fresnel's (see <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>portrait and objects relating to Augustin-Jean Fresnel</a> at the Science Museum Group) new compound lenses were used in the lamps.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Astronomer Royal George Airy [<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''><img title="Link to RMG" alt='RMG icon' class='nmm_icon' src='/images/general/nmm_small.png'/></a>] chose to separate this particular collection of accounts regarding this surveying effort and it's expenses perhaps as a way to highlight the importance of this project to the Board; these receipts, whilst rather mundane, require their own volume due to the importance of the survey they are associated with. The accounts themselves are also very rigorous and detailed, which further suggests that the Board and the Royal Society were keen to remain vigilant over the expenses associated with the survey as it represented at least a noticeable part of their budget.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Sophie Waring<br />History and Philosophy of Science<br />University of Cambridge<br /></p>

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