Dessiou's Claim

in Tides of History

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2008 | ISBN: 9780226709321
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226709338 | DOI:
Dessiou's Claim

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This chapter analyzes sustained efforts to predict the tides on Britain's coasts, following the study of the tides from the less glamorous position of calculation. It focuses on the legal claim made by Joseph Foss Dessiou, the first state-funded tide calculator in Britain, against the proprietors of the Nautical Almanac, who used his tidal reductions without proper compensation. It also highlights the significance of associate laborers to physical astronomy during the Victorian period. British industrialization rapidly made London the largest port in the world, and publishing London tide tables became a competitive and lucrative business. Charles Knight, a prolific publisher and writer, suggested to Henry Brougham, founder of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, that the Society include an almanac among its inexpensive publications. After mariners questioned the accuracy of these initial tide tables, John William Lubbock, a Cambridge graduate and successful London banker, stepped in to calculate the major tidal constants for the port. From the beginning, the study of the tides was a collaborative and hierarchical affair begun by associate laborers themselves.

Keywords: tides; Britain; calculation; Joseph Foss Dessiou; Nautical Almanac; associate laborers; physical astronomy; tide tables; Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge; John William Lubbock

Chapter.  12695 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Environmental History

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