A Return to the Stars


I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

John Masefield, Sea Fever

The Sea

You may remember our dear friend, Hipparchus from the “Narratives of Science” who was a stargazer as well as the mathematical genius who invented trigonometry. While that would be enough for any lifetime, even for a man of his intellect, it seems that he had a third occupation, that of a renowned geographer, over and above being an astronomer and  mathematician.

In the midst of cataloguing all of the known stars, Hipparchus perceived the potent relationship between earth and the heavens. He was the first person to plot places on the earth’s surface using the concepts of longitude and latitude in his geographical positioning.  He concluded that a geographic map must be founded on astronomical measurements of latitude, longitude and triangulation.  Some even believe that Hipparchus was the inventor of the astrolabe, an elaborate instrument that would enable navigators to predict the positions of the Sun, Moon, planets and stars.

Three centuries later, Claudius Ptolemy, would compete his work by creating the first world atlas.  The world of navigation would never be the same again.

Skill’d in the globe and sphere, he gravely stands,  And, with his compass, measures seas and lands.”

John Dryden