Compasses and sinking ships: Mrs Janet Taylor’s contribution in the compass adjusting controversy of mid-nineteenth-century England

Rosalind Frances Croucher*, John Sydney Croucher

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The mid-nineteenth century was a highpoint of empire building, and reliable navigation across the oceans was crucial. While the effects of magnetic variation and deviation on compasses were well known by 1800, iron ships brought with them an even bigger challenge. The nautical world divided between ‘applied’ and ‘theoretical’ approaches to addressing the ‘compass problem’. This article focuses on the role of Janet Taylor, who lived and worked in the heart of this community, as a writer, teacher, inventor, chart-seller and compass adjuster, as a follower of the system of compass adjustment advocated by the Astronomer Royal, Professor George Airy. Janet Taylor’s achievements in the compass adjusting field and her interactions with the Astronomer Royal are explored, adding another insight into Mrs Taylor’s distinctive story.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)234-251
Number of pages18
JournalInternational journal of maritime history
Volume30
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2018

Keywords

  • compass adjusting
  • magnetism
  • navigation
  • women entrepreneurs
  • women’s history

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