Nav­i­gat­ing His­tory

Country Life Every Week - - In The Garden -

585BC

Thales of Mile­tus claims that lode­stone at­tracts iron be­cause it has a soul

1111

The first ref­er­ence— again Chi­nese—to ships sail­ing us­ing a mag­netic com­pass: ‘In dark weather they look at the south point­ing nee­dle’

1600

Dr Wil­liam Gil­bert claims that the world is a gi­ant mag­net. He de­signs an im­proved, but by no means per­fect, com­pass

1701

After two long voy­ages, Sir Ed­mond

pub­lishes The Gen­eral Chart of the Vari­a­tion of the Com­pass, mak­ing it eas­ier for trav­ellers to find true north

1876

Prof Sir Wil­liam Thomson patents a new com­pass and bin­na­cle, per­haps the first marine com­pass that can truly be de­scribed as ac­cu­rate. By 1907, he has sold more than 10,000 of them

1943

Minia­ture com­passes and maps printed on silk are hid­den in Mo­nop­oly board games and sent to pris­on­ers of war in Ger­many to help them es­cape

1040

An an­cient Chi­nese text called Wu­jing Zongyao de­scribes how to make a sim­ple com­pass by mag­netis­ing a thin leaf of iron into the shape of a fish and float­ing it in a bowl of water

1302

The first dry mariner’s com­pass—a freely piv­ot­ing nee­dle on a pin, en­closed in a box with a cover and wind rose—is de­vel­oped. Later com­passes were sus­pended from a gim­bal to re­duce the ef­fect of mo­tion at sea. This in­ven­tion trans­forms in­ter­na­tional trade and al­lows Euro­peans to explore the rest of the world

1690

Sir Ed­mond Hal­ley shows a model of a liq­uid com­pass—but it’s an­other 400 years be­fore the con­cept is per­fected

1839

Ge­orge Airy works out how to cor­rect com­passes us­ing mag­nets. He charges one ship owner £100 for mak­ing a cor­rec­tion that takes him only a few hours

1908

The first ac­cu­rate di­rec­tional gy­ro­com­pass goes into pro­duc­tion, en­sur­ing that trav­ellers can al­ways find true north

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