Longitudinal communities. The astronomer Bengt Ferrner’s visit to London 1759–60

Jacob Orrje
Department of History of Science and Ideas, Uppsala University
Thursday, April 26, 2012 - 11:00 - 12:00
Hjorters room (Å73101)
Astronomy and Space Physics

In 1759–60 the Uppsala astronomer, and professor at the new naval academy in Karlskrona, Bengt Ferrner visited London as a part of his tour through Europe. These two years were pivotal for the development of new methods for determining the longitude at sea, and Ferrner met with most prominent English astronomers and mathematicians working in this field. Still, establishing contact with these men was not effortless.

In the 18th century, in England and Sweden alike, astronomy and naval science were tightly interwoven with interests of the state and of the military. But at the same time, astronomy was a part of international networks of letter correspondence, i.e. “The Republic of Letters”. Ferrner's account of his visit provides us with an opportunity to examine how cosmopolitanism and patriotism interplayed in the astronomy of the mid 1700s. Through his account we see how these two seemingly contradictory ideals were both important parts of 18th-century astronomic communities.