Marine Chronometer

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"The fundamental event of the modern age is the conquest of the world as picture." —Heidegger, "The Age of the World Picture"

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John Harrison's 1714 H1 Marine Chronometer

Although it is widely considered John Harrison's invention of the Marine Chronometer in 1714

Historical Context

Sundials: The Original Real-Time Display

Signified by the presence of light and dark, the division of day and night is our most fundamental reference for marking the passage of time. The sundial, from its most primitive beginnings, made it possible to subdivide time further. Day was transformed from the general presence of sunlight into the increments of time's passage that the sundial codified.

Ptolemy: Projecting the Grid

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Ptolemy's World Map from Geographia circa 150 A.D.

The origin of latitude and longitude, and notion that space could be made legible through the system of a grid.

The Shape of the Earth: Toward a More Precise Map

Longitude and the World-Picture

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Henricus Hondius' 1633 World Map. Note the distortion of the Mediterranean Sea and the necessity of two seperate hemispheres.

Greenwich and the Longitude Prize

Timekeeping, Synchronicity, and Nodal Representation

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A Moscow Subway Map:Knowledge of the transportation system makes the city's geographic distribution less important than the internal logic of nodal distribution.


" . . . In that Empire, the craft of Cartography attained such Perfection that the Map of Single province covered the space of an entire City, and the Map of the Empire itself an entire Province. In the course of Time, these Extensive maps were found somehow wanting, and so the college of Cartographers evolved a Map of the Empire that was of the same Scale as the Empire and that coincided with it point for point. Less attentive to the Study of Cartography, succeeding Generations came to judge a map of such Magnitude cumbersome, and, not without Irreverence, they abandoned it to the Rigors of sun and Rain. In the western Deserts, tattered Fragments of the Map are still to be found, Sheltering an occasional Beast or beggar; in the whole Nation, no other relic is left of the Discipline of Geography." —Jorge Luis Borges, Of Exactitude in Science

Although the art of map-making could be perfected once accurate measurement of Longitude was made possible by Harrison's Chronometer, the ability to measure both longitude and latitude given a clear sky had the peculiar impact of establishing a grid off which one could never travel - Although much of the globe remained to be explored and charted, the perfection of Longitude had the peculiar outcome of making perfect Geography less important than perfect coordinates. Rather than a map, an entire voyage could be assigned bearings and coordinates that would enable any location to be reached by ship.

As a result, the perfection of longitude is really a story of the successful projection of a grid upon the globe with which one could never be truly lost. In perfecting this system, the literal constraints referenced by the notion of "foggy weather" were overcome.

Legacies of the flat representation of Curvilinear Space

Staying Tuned: Towards a Distributed Nomadic Standard

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GPS has enabled unprecedented precision in mapping and navigation
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Archigram's Plug-in City imagined a networked megastructure that could support "plugged-in" interchangeable spaces

Although the cartographic achievements that proliferated in the wake of Harrison's chronometer heralded in an era of unprecedented accuracy in Cartography, perhaps its greater legacy was its