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Book Cover
Author Withers, Charles W. J., author

Title Zero degrees : geographies of the Prime Meridian / Charles W.J. Withers
Published Cambridge, Massachusetts : Harvard University Press, 2017
Online access available from:
EBSCO eBook Academic Collection    View Resource Record  


Description 1 online resource (x, 321 pages) : illustrations, maps
Contents One line to rule the world -- Geographical confusion. "Absurd vanity" : the world's prime meridians before c.1790 ; Declarations of independence : prime meridians in America, c.1784-1884 -- Global unity? International standards? : metrology and the regulation of space and time, 1787-1884 ; Globalizing space and time : getting to Greenwich, c.1870-1883 ; Greenwich ascendant : Washington 1884 and the politics of science -- Geographical afterlives. Washington's "afterlife" : the Prime Meridian and Universal Time, 1884-1925 ; Ruling space, fixing time
Summary Space and time on earth are regulated by the Prime Meridian, 0°, which is, by convention, based at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. But the meridian's location in southeast London is not a simple legacy of Britain's imperial past. Before the nineteenth century, more than twenty-five different prime meridians were in use around the world, including Paris, Beijing, Greenwich, Washington, and the location traditional in Europe since Ptolemy, the Canary Islands. Charles Withers explains how the choice of Greenwich to mark 0° longitude solved complex problems of global measurement that had engaged geographers, astronomers, and mariners since ancient times. Withers guides readers through the navigation and astronomy associated with diverse meridians and explains the problems that these cartographic lines both solved and created. He shows that as science and commerce became more global and as railway and telegraph networks tied the world closer together, the multiplicity of prime meridians led to ever greater confusion in the coordination of time and the geographical division of space. After a series of international scientific meetings, notably the 1884 International Meridian Conference in Washington, DC, Greenwich emerged as the most pragmatic choice for a global prime meridian, though not unanimously or without acrimony. Even after 1884, other prime meridians remained in use for decades. As Zero Degrees shows, geographies of the prime meridian are a testament to the power of maps, the challenges of accurate measurement on a global scale, and the role of scientific authority in creating the modern world-- Provided by publisher
Bibliography Includes bibliographical references and index
Notes Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page (EBSCO, viewed March 29, 2017)
Subject Geographical positions -- History.
Meridians (Geodesy) -- History.
Prime Meridian -- History.
Genre/Form History.
Form Electronic book
ISBN 0674978935 (electronic bk.)
9780674978935 (electronic bk.)