Measure of the Earth: The Enlightenment Expedition That Reshaped Our World

Measure of the Earth: The Enlightenment Expedition That Reshaped Our World

by Larrie D. Ferreiro

Paperback(First Trade Paper Edition)

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In the 18th century, Europe's scientific community was torn between two opposing theories: Descartes' argument that the Earth was spherical, and Newton's contention that it was flattened at the poles. Recognizing that the answer was the key to securely navigating the earth's oceans, France and Spain organized a joint expedition to colonial Peru. Their goal was to measure a degree of latitude at the Equator; by comparing this measurement to one taken back in Europe, they would be able to determine the planet's shape and put an end to the debate. But what seemed a straightforward scientific exercise was almost immediately marred by a series of unforeseen catastrophes: treacherous terrain, deeply suspicious locals, and the voyagers' own hubris. A thrilling tale of adventure, political history, and scientific discovery, Larrie D. Ferreiro's Measure of the Earth recounts the greatest scientific exhibition of the Enlightenment through the eyes of the men who completed it—pioneers who overcame tremendous adversity to traverse the towering Andes Mountains and discern the Earth's true shape.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780465063819
Publisher: Basic Books
Publication date: 06/25/2013
Edition description: First Trade Paper Edition
Pages: 376
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Larrie D. Ferreiro is the author and editor of several books on the history of science and technology, including Ships and Science, which received the North American Society for Oceanic History's John Lyman Award for Best Book in Science and Technology. A frequent maritime contributor to the History Channel and the Discovery Channel, he was an on-screen historical consultant to a BBC documentary about the Geodesic Mission. He lives in Fairfax, Virginia.

Table of Contents

Principal Characters ix

Introduction: The Baseline at Yaruquí xiii

I The Problem of the Earth's Shape 1

II Preparations for the Mission 31

III Finding Quito 61

IV Degree of Difficulty 91

V City of Kings 117

VI The Triangles of Peru 129

VII Death and the Surgeon 163

VIII The War of Jenkins's Ear 179

IX The Dance of the Stars 197

X The Impossible Return 223

XI A World Revealed 247

Epilogue: The Children of the Equator 273

Afterword 289

A Note on Language 293

Units of Measure and Currency 295

Acknowledgments 297

Notes 299

Index 339

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