The Journey of a Genius: John Harrison then and now
William J.H. Andrewes
Since the publication of Dava’s Sobel’s best-selling book “Longitude” and the documentary and feature film that followed in its wake, John Harrison has become as well-known as Isaac Newton and other great geniuses of their day. Like them, he is now honored with a memorial stone in Westminster Abbey. Fifty years ago, however, his contributions to horology were little understood. Although Harrison was credited with the invention of the first successful marine timekeeper, the accepted history at that time made minimal connection between his prize-winning watch (H4) and the modern marine chronometer. As a result, he was considered by most horologists as “a glorious dead end”. William Andrewes’s lifelong fascination with the life and work of John Harrison began in 1966. In this talk, he tells the story of how John Harrison rose from relative obscurity following his death to his rightful place in history.
William Andrewes is a museum consultant and maker of precision sundials. Born and educated in England, he trained as a clockmaker, working under the guidance of George Daniels, Martin Burgess and others, and as a designer, graduating from Kingston College of Art in 1972. Since then, he has specialized in time measurement, working at Eton College, the Old Royal Observatory, The Time Museum, and Harvard University. He organized the Longitude Symposium, edited The Quest for Longitude, and was co-author with Dava Sobel of The Illustrated Longitude. For his contributions to horology, he was awarded the Harrison Medal in 2007.