This chapter focuses on the content, significance, critique, and ultimate success of Bowditch’s New American Practical Navigator (1802). A revised and expanded version of an English nautical manual, Bowditch’s Navigator held nationalist appeal, but it was the unprecedented accuracy of its navigation tables that soon made it the standard authority on America’s trading and naval vessels. Bowditch had recalculated thousands of table values, a massive computational task that followed on his longstanding reputation for solving complex mathematical puzzles in feats of mental arithmetic. Among Europeans, such feats had once been the mark of extraordinary intellect, but were now equated with the machine-like labors of Charles Babbage’s calculating engine. Bowditch, however, found pleasure in computation, delighting in the certitude and abstraction of numbers. And Americans celebrated Bowditch’s achievement with an honorary Harvard degree and membership in Boston’s American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
North Carolina Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.
If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.