Measure of the Earth: The Enlightenment Expedition That Reshaped Our World

Measure of the Earth: The Enlightenment Expedition That Reshaped Our World


By (author) Larrie D. Ferreiro

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  • Publisher: BASIC BOOKS
  • Format: Hardback | 320 pages
  • Dimensions: 163mm x 236mm x 33mm | 590g
  • Publication date: 23 June 2011
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 0465017231
  • ISBN 13: 9780465017232
  • Illustrations note: black & white illustrations, black & white line drawings, maps, figures
  • Sales rank: 470,636

Product description

In the early eighteenth century, European thinkers were torn between Descartes notion that the earth was spherical and Newtons contention that it was flattened at the poles. Eager to reap the great military and imperial advantages of knowing the earths exact shape, France and Spain sent an expedition of scientists and naval officers to colonial Peru to measure the degree of equatorial latitude, which could resolve the debate. But what seemed to be a straightforward survey down the Andes was quickly marred by catastrophe. In Measure of the Earth, award-winning science writer Larrie D. Ferreiro tells the full story of the Geodesic Mission for the first time, describing the remarkable scientific expedition through the eyes of the men who served on it.

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Author information

Larrie D. Ferreiro is the author and editor of several books on the history of science and technology, including "Ships and Science," which received the North American Society for Oceanic History's John Lyman Award for Best Book in Science and Technology. He lives in Fairfax, Virginia.

Review quote

Andres Resendez, author of "A Land So Strange" "The greatest achievement of Larrie D. Ferreiro's wonderful book is to walk us with perfect ease through remote locales and arcane subjects. Mr. Ferreiro seems no less at home in Guayaquil than in Paris or London and no less lucid in explaining the debates over the shape of the earth between Newtonians and Cartesians than in describing the intrigues surrounding the French Academy or the excruciating logistics of a scientific mission unfolding in colonial South America."Kim MacQuarrie, author of "The Last Days of the Incas""The story of the race to determine the shape of the Earth is one of history's most engaging yet least-known stories. In "Measure of the Earth," Larrie Ferreiro takes us inside the scientific expedition that set off from France to South America in the 18th century to discover the answer. Ferreiro not only brings to life the band of characters that embarked on this journey, with all of their intrigues and rivalries, but he also details the huge stakes involved. Whichever county discovered the Earth's correct shape would take a giant leap forwards in enhancing their military and economic power. A fascinating account of scientific inquiry thoroughly enmeshed in the race for power and empire." Peter C. Mancall, author of "Fatal Journey: The Final Expedition of Henry Hudson""Doing science in the eighteenth century demanded almost unbearable sacrifices for distant rewards and only the most dedicated could handle the challenges. Larrie Ferreiro's deep research has produced a highly readable account of one of the great scientific expeditions of the age of the Enlightenment, a venture all the more riveting since it unfolded amidst imperial contests and devastating tragedy and tested the psychological and physical limits of those keen to expand knowledge of the shape of the Earth." James Horn, author of "A Kingdom Strange" and "A Land as God Made It""In "Measure of the Earth," Larrie Ferreiro tells the dr