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LONGITUDE (article first published : 2002-03-16)

From Charles Sturridge, director of Brideshead Revisited and Gulliver's Travels, comes the riveting mini-series Longitude starting on M-Net on March 19 at 21h00.

Longitude follows John Harrison's quest to find the key to determining longitude. In the 18th century, the problem of measuring longitude confounded scientists, sailors and politicians. In 1707, unable to determine their exact location through a thick fog, 2,000 men of the British fleet perished by accidentally running into the rocks off the Scilly Islands.

As a result of this tragedy, in 1714, the British Parliament passed the Act of Longitude to offer an enormous cash prize to the person who could solve the problem of longitude.

A carpenter by trade, Harrison believed that the solution lies in finding a way to accurately measure time, going against many of the scientists of the day who felt that the mystery would be solved through celestial navigation. Harrison designs and creates four timekeepers, each more refined than the previous. This work takes him through 30-years of struggle and determination (not only his but his family's, friends, and allies as well) to solve what was referred to as the "greatest scientific problem of the time." Along the way, he faces the animosity and interference of many of the celestial navigation proponents.

Based on Dava Soble's Longitude, the story tells a true story of a lone genius who solved the greatest scientific problem of his time. The programme tells the story of Harrison's forty-year battle to secure the Longitude prize, as he struggled against prejudice, double-dealing, the forces of nature and his own doubts.




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