Monday, August 22, 2011

Tonight, I Am Mostly Reading ...

Map of a Nation : A Biography of the Ordnance Survey

Rachel Hewitt, Granta Books; First Edition 2nd Impression edition (7 Oct 2010)

The United Kingdom and Éire are probably the most accurately mapped countries in the world..

How this mammoth project came about is covered in this fascinating book. The reason wasn't so that walkers and cyclists would an have excellent resource to guide them through the highways and the byways of the countryside, oh no. The clue is in the word "ordnance".

So this book traces the origins of the Ordnance Survey, where mathematicians and engineers performed incredible feats of mathematics, measurement and trigonometry to compile the nation's map when the nation's armed forces weren't quite certain on whose heads they would be dumping all that ordnance.

But engineers and surveyors had to cope with everything from plumb-lines which didn't hang vertically because of neighbouring mountains - Newton sorted this one out - to natives who mistook them for French spies checking out invasion routes - the local constabulary sorted this one ... sometimes.

I'm pleased to say that Plymothians and Old Boys from my old school feature in this. I can't say I knew them. This was over 200 years ago, but it's nice to know Plympton Grammar School played its part. I'm so proud. And so would "Ned" Nicholson, MA (Cantab) my old Headmaster. And we all know what "Cantab" means, don't we?

Anyway, for me, a map addict, this is a compelling read. Thank you Linda, for finding it for me.