In an age where accurate time measurement is taken for granted, the upcoming auction of an 1825 marine chronometer highlights just how far science has advanced in the last 200 years.
The invention of the marine chronometer directly resulted from the UK "Longitude Act" of 1714 that offered £20,000 reward (£2.6 million in today’s money) for developing a means by which longitude could be accurately and economically measured at sea.
The resultant invention of the Chronometer helped Britain establish not only the naval, but also mercantile advantage that allowed it to dominate the oceans until the early 20th century.
The marine chronometer heading for the auction block on July 9 has certainly witnessed its fair share of history in fulfilling that critical scientific role, having accompanied Charles Darwin on his epic five-year second voyage (1831-1836) to South America and the Galapagos Islands, the North American Boundary Expedition (1843-1846) which established the border between the USA and Canada and the 1857 survey of the Australian coastline which saw the naming of Darwin and the Fitzroy River.
The previously unrecorded marine chronometer is dated 1825 and signed by William Edward Frodsham. It was one of 22 chronometers aboard HMS Beagle (the ship which carried Darwin on his second voyage and also mapped Australia's coastline). Until now, only two other recorded chronometers from HMS Beagle are known to have survived, and are in the British Museum.
Given its stellar provenance, the chronometer seems ridiculously cheap if it does fall within its expected price range of £30,000-50,000.