Cover: Zero Degrees: Geographies of the Prime Meridian, from Harvard University PressCover: Zero Degrees in HARDCOVER

Zero Degrees

Geographies of the Prime Meridian

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Product Details


$29.95 • £23.95 • €27.00

ISBN 9780674088818

Publication Date: 03/13/2017


336 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

11 halftones, 18 maps, 7 tables


  • List of Maps and Illustrations*
  • Prologue
  • Introduction: One Line to Rule the World
  • I. Geographical Confusion
    • 1. “Absurd Vanity”: The World’s Prime Meridians before c. 1790
    • 2. Declarations of Independence: Prime Meridians in America, c. 1784–1884
  • II. Global Unity?
    • 3. International Standards? Metrology and the Regulation of Space and Time, 1787–1884
    • 4. Globalizing Space and Time: Getting to Greenwich, c. 1870–1883
    • 5. Greenwich Ascendant: Washington 1884 and the Politics of Science
  • III. Geographical Afterlives
    • 6. Washington’s “Afterlife”: The Prime Meridian and Universal Time, 1884–1925
    • 7. Ruling Space, Fixing Time
  • Notes
  • Acknowledgments
  • Index
  • * Maps and Illustrations
    • Figure 1.1. Map of 1628 showing the Eastern and Western Hemispheres of the globe touching at the equator at what was presumed to be the agonic meridian, the line of zero magnetic declination.
    • Figure 1.2. Map of Europe in 1757 by the leading French cartographer, D. Robert de Vaugondy, showing the line of the “Premier Méridien” as adjudicated by France’s King Louis XIII in the edict of 1634.
    • Figure 1.3. France, geodetically reduced, 1693.
    • Figure 1.4. Enlightenment France, regulated and ordered, 1744.
    • Figure 1.5. The Royal Observatory at Greenwich as a later eighteenth-century center of geodetic calculation.
    • Figure 1.6. The Nautical Almanac and Astronomical Ephemeris, for the Year 1769.
    • Figure 1.7. Accurate longitudinal measurements centered upon the 0° of the Paris Observatoire in the “Différence des Méridiens” and the “Tables de la Différence des Méridiens,” 1776.
    • Figure 1.8. Late eighteenth-century Spanish coastal chart of the Strait of Gibraltar showing four different prime meridians.
    • Figure 1.9. “An Accurate Chart of the Bay of Biscay,” 1757, showing six different 0° baselines.
    • Figure 1.10. The longitudinal difference between Paris and London, 1776.
    • Figure 1.11. Collaborative international regulation through coordinated triangulation: Greenwich and Paris, 1790.
    • Figure 2.1. Jedidiah Morse and a Philadelphia prime meridian, 1784.
    • Figure 2.2. The title page of William Lambert’s 1805 pamphlet.
    • Figure 3.1. Henry Kater’s map of 1828 showing the triangulation scheme pursued with the French, 1821–1823.
    • Figure 3.2. The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons, October 16, 1834.
    • Figure 3.3. The completed triangulation of the United Kingdom by the mid-nineteenth century.
    • Figure 3.4. The several meridian arcs in existence by the mid-nineteenth century.
    • Figure 4.1. A scheme for the world’s “initial meridian” and universal time, Venice 1881.
    • Figure 4.2. Alexandre-Émile Béguyer de Chancourtois’s map of two different prime meridians, 1874.
    • Figure 4.3. Henri Bouthillier de Beaumont’s proposal for a prime meridian 150° west of Ferro.
    • Figure 4.4. “Map Showing the Divisions of Standard Time,” 1883.
    • Figure 4.5. Sandford Fleming’s scheme for the “Proposed Common Prime Meridian,” 1879.
    • Figure 4.6. The Royal Geographical Society’s refusal to consider any prime meridian other than Greenwich.
    • Figure 6.1. Japan’s adoption of the Greenwich meridian, July 28, 1886.
    • Figure 6.2. Sandford Fleming’s standard questionnaire to determine the attitudes of British shipmasters toward Greenwich.
    • Figure 6.3. Map of Australia’s zone times, 1895, based on Greenwich.
    • Figure 6.4. World map of one-hour time zones.
    • Figure 6.5. Paris—and the Eiffel Tower—as the early twentieth century’s time capital.
    • Figure 7.1. Alternative prime meridians in The Adventures of Tintin.
    • Figure 7.2. The prime meridian: “where East meets West.”

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