Measure of the Earth : The Enlightenment Expedition That Reshaped Our World
In the 18th century, Europe's scientific community was torn between two opposing theories: Descartes' argument that the Earth was spherical, and Newton's contention that it was flattened at the poles. Recognizing that the answer was the key to securely navigating the earth's oceans, France and Spain organized a joint expedition to colonial Peru. Their goal was to measure a degree of latitude at the Equator by comparing this measurement to one taken back in Europe, they would be able to determine the planet's shape and put an end to the debate. But what seemed a straightforward scientific exercise was almost immediately marred by a series of unforeseen catastrophes: treacherous terrain, deeply suspicious locals, and the voyagers' own hubris. A thrilling tale of adventure, political history, and scientific discovery, Larrie D. Ferreiro's Measure of the Earth recounts the greatest scientific exhibition of the Enlightenment through the eyes of the men who completed it,pioneers who overcame tremendous adversity to traverse the towering Andes Mountains and discern the Earth's true shape.
- Paperback | 376 pages
- 139.7 x 208.28 x 27.94mm | 385.55g
- 25 Jun 2013
- INGRAM PUBLISHER SERVICES US
- BASIC BOOKS
- New York, United States
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." Carla Rahn Phillips, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities "Ferreiro's Measure of the Earth nicely captures the scientific complexity and physical difficulty of this extraordinary expedition. At the same time, the author provides richly textured portraits of all the principal protagonists, whose personal foibles and rivalries sometimes undercut their professional skills. This is a compelling tale of international politics, Enlightened science, and human drama, played out on both sides of the Atlantic." Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, William P. Reynolds Professor of Arts and Letters, University of Notre Dame, and author of Pathfinders "Larrie D. Ferreiro tells us that Voltaire could make difficult subjects accessible to everyone. In Measure of the Earth Ferreiro shows that he can do the same, with his Voltairean gifts of mastery of material and fluency in prose. Kirkus "A sophisticated work tracing the arduous mid-18th-century international expedition to the Latin American equator to determine the "figure of the earth." Publishers Weekly "[A] fascinating and clearly written account" 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 dramatic story of the first international scientific expedition to South America to establish the precise dimensions of the globe. The French scientists who led the expedition to the Andes overcame incredible adversities traversing the jungles and highlands of equatorial Peru, surviving near mutiny, attacks by local inhabitants, war, siege, and the skepticism of fellow academicians in their homeland to complete their mission and achieve lasting fame. Beautifully written, Ferreiro's book provides an authoritative and gripping account of one of the greatest scientific breakthroughs of the Enlightenment."
About Larrie D. Ferreiro
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. A frequent maritime contributor to the History Channel and the Discovery Channel, he was an on-screen historical consultant to a BBC documentary about the Geodesic Mission. He lives in Fairfax, Virginia.