Tuesday, June 14, 2011


So, in preparation for London I have been reading books for one of my assignments:  two book reviews for my British Studies class. The books I chose were Longitude by Dava Sobel and The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester.

Longitude is all about John Harrison, the man who solved one of the major problems of the eighteenth century: determining longitude. Harrison's marine chronometer was able to determine longitude, a problem that both Galileo and Newton had failed to overcome. However, Harrison had some major struggles on his path to success and many times his methods were scoffed at, while other scientists volleyed for the 20, 000 pound prize money with other less reliable methods.
Overall, this book was so small and easy to read. The narrative is very enjoyable and I am excited to say that now I will have a better understanding of the importance of these marine clocks when I visit the Greenwich Maritime Museum while abroad!

The Professor and the Madman is a story about the creation of the most in-depth and lengthy reference material ever created-- the Oxford English Dictionary. The story weaves two characters-- a professor at Oxford as he searches for help in undertaking the massive project of working on the OED and a madman-- an American who was imprisoned for killing a man, all while under great delusions that he was being targeted by others. Oddly enough, these two are able to work together to aid in the completion of the Oxford English Dictionary, all the  while the professor having no clue as to the man assisting him is an inmate at an asylum for the criminally insane.
I haven't finished the book yet, but I am so enjoying it! And I will be able to see where the dictionary began--- in Oxford!

All in all, if you are interested in history, I would highly recommend these books. They are thin, easy reads that are enjoyable and educational.

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