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84 Tul. L. Rev. 1 (2009-2010)
Law and Longitude

handle is hein.journals/tulr84 and id is 3 raw text is: TULANE
LAW REVIEW

VOL. 84                       NOVEMBER2009                                 No. 1
Law and Longitude
Jonathan R. Siegel*
The story of the eighteenth-centuy quest to 'flind the longitude is an epic tale that
blends science with law The problem of determining longitude while at sea was so important
that the British Parhament offered a large cash pnze for a solution and created an admimstrative
agency, the Board ofLongitude, to determine the winner The generallypopular view is that the
Board ofLongitude cheated John Harrison, an inventor, out of the great longitude pnze.
ThisArticle examines the longitude story from a legalperspective. The Article considers
how a court might rule on the dispute between Harrison and the Board of Longitude. The
Article suggests that the popular account of the dispute is unfair to the Board The Boardgave a
reasonable interpretation to the statute creating the longitude prize and was not improperly
biased against Hamson s method of solving the longtude problem. The Aticle concludes with
some lessons the longitude story offers for modem intellectual property and administrative law
I.    INTRODUCTION     ............................................................................. 2
II.   THE SETTING OF THE CASE .......................................................... 5
A.     The Longitude Problem ................................................... 6
B.     The Longitude Act and the Board ofLongitude ............... 8
C     Finding the Longitude ...................................................... 10
1.    The Chronometer Method ....................................... 11
2.    The Lunar Distance Method ................................... 12
D.    Enter John Hamlson ........................................................ 14
E     Harnison  Stuggles with the Board ................................ 17
1.    The  Jam  aica Trial .....................................................  18
*     © 2009 Jonathan R. Siegel. Professor of Law and Kahan Research Professor,
George Washington University Law School. J.D., Yale Law School; A.B. Harvard College.
The author thanks Paul Craig, Jerry Mashaw, Rob Natelson, Jefferson Powell, Dava Sobel,
and participants in a workshop at George Washington University Law School for their helpful
comments on earlier drafts.

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