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Skidmore College
First-Year Experience

Scribner Seminar Program
Course Description

Where are We?

Instructor (s): Mark Hofmann, Mathematics

How did Columbus run into North America when he was trying to establish a route to India? How could pirates accurately predict where merchant ships would be when the merchant ships themselves found it difficult to determine their own position?  Why did some believe that the yelps of wounded dogs might help to establish a ship's position at sea?   In examining these questions, students will explore the science that is involved in determining longitude and latitude, in determining time and also the nature of time itself.   In learning the story of British clockmaker John Harrison who won "The Longitude Prize" in 18th century Britain, students will consider the social, political, and economic consequences of accurate navigation and of mapmaking in the context of British, European and American history in the 18th and 19th centuries.   Students will also explore the science of determining time and place in the 20th and 21st centuries.


Course Offered