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In the 18th century, the only way to navigate accurately at sea was to follow a coastline all the way, which would not get you from Europe to the West Indies or the Americas. Observing the sun or stars would give you the latitude, but not the longitude unless done in conjunction with a clock that would keep time accurately at sea, and no such clock existed. After one too many maritime disasters due to navigational errors, the British Parliament set up a substantial prize for a way to find the longitude at sea. The film's main story is that of craftsman John Harrison: he built a clock that would do the job, what we would now call a marine chronometer. But the Board of Longitude was biased against this approach and claiming the prize was no simple matter. Told in parallel is the 20th century story of Rupert Gould, for whom the restoration of Harrison's clocks to working order became first a hobby, then an obsession that threatened to wreck his life. Written by
Harrison describes his clock to George Graham, and the accuracy astounds him. In reality, Harrison invented the "gridiron pendulum" (which made such accuracy possible) in 1726. However, Graham had invented the even more accurate "mercury pendulum" in 1721, so he would not have stated such accuracy "can't be done", when first meeting Harrison in 1730. See more »
John Harrison never received his reward from the Board of Longitude. It came to him by special Act of Parliament, when he was 80 years old.
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A&E's "Longitude" is perhaps the most emotionally compelling, made for TV dramas yet. I was so impressed when I first saw Longitude on A&E that I had to buy it on DVD the minute it came out. A highly realistic, fully drawn out, historical drama of how one man's dream tamed time and space, "Longitude" strikes home with its all-star cast (including Jeremy Irons and Micheal Gambon) and two-part storyline. The first story is that of a carpenter, John Harrison, who struggled for almost 50 years to perfect a "practical and useful" marine chronometer. The second story revolves around Commander Rupert Gould, a man who discovers Harrison's forgotten prototypes and fights to not only restore the timepieces but to also restore the honor of Harrison.
"Longitude" is filled with tons of edge-of-your-seat, gritty scenes, and every second of the 200-minute film glows with a profound message. The ending scene is especially powerful, in which Rupert Gould remarks, "What makes a man great? A man may be great in his aims, or in his achievements, or in both...but I think that man is truly great who makes the world his debtor..who does something for the world which the world needs, and which nobody before him has done or known how to do."
Definitely a great educational film to watch, and an excellent film to own. "Longitude" is an unforgettable experience and a demonstration of just how good a movie can be.
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