About this blog
This blog is a companion to the Twitter feed of the manuscript logs of Edmond Halley’s three voyages in the Paramore and provides background information to the feed @HalleysLog. The blog and Twitter account are run by Kate Morant (@KateMorant).
Halley made three government-funded voyages for the improvement of navigation, the earliest having a strong claim to being the first publicly-funded expedition for purely scientific purposes. Halley made two voyages round the Atlantic Ocean, primarily to measure magnetic declination, and a third voyage to survey the tides in the English Channel. His logbooks for these voyages cover the following periods:
- Voyage 1 (Atlantic): 20 October 1698 to 11 July 1699 (ended prematurely)
- Voyage 2 (Atlantic): 16 September 1699 to 10 September 1700
- Voyage 3 (Channel): 14 June 1701 to 16 October 1701
The logbooks were first tweeted as part of this project between 2012-15, and are being repeated on Twitter from 20 October 2016. The relevant blog entry will appear as the Featured post on the Home page as it re-arises in the narrative. The transcription of Halley’s logbooks is my own.
All dates are Old Style (OS), but using January 1 as the start of the year rather than March 25. Hence, 10 January 1698/99 is here shown as 10 January 1699 (which is 20 January 1699 New Style).
About Edmond Halley
Edmond Halley FRS (1656–1742) was an astronomer and mathematician, whose work ranged across physics, barometry, meteorology, hydrology, cartography and geophysics. More surprisingly, perhaps, he was also a sea captain, undertaking three voyages for scientific purposes between 1698 and 1701.
He was born in Haggerston (about two miles north of the old City wall) to a wealthy soap-boiler, also Edmond, and his wife Anne. He attended St Paul’s School and Queen’s College, Oxford, which he left before taking his degree in order to sail to St Helena to map the southern stars. He received an MA by royal mandate on his return, and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society on 30 November 1678, aged 22.
Halley was elected Clerk to the Royal Society in 1686, and in 1687 he oversaw – and paid for – the publication of Newton’s Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica.
He served in the regional mint at Chester during the Great Recoinage of the 1690s and in 1698 he set out on the first of his three voyages in HMS Paramore. At the end of these, Halley was soon travelling again, undertaking two missions to survey sites and oversee construction of harbour fortifications in the Adriatic.
In January 1704, Halley was elected Savilian Professor of Geometry at Oxford, and so returned to more scholarly pursuits; he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Civil Laws degree by the university in 1710.
In a paper published in 1705, Astronomiae Cometicae Synopsis, Halley proposed that the comets of 1531, 1607 and 1682 were one and the same and predicted that it would return in 1758. It did, and ever since has been popularly known as ‘Halley’s Comet’ (official designation 1P/Halley).
In 1713 Halley was elected Secretary of the Royal Society, and in 1720 he succeeded John Flamsteed as Astronomer Royal at Greenwich.
Halley married Mary Tooke in 1682 and the couple had three children surviving to adulthood. Mary died in 1736 and Edmond in 1742, and they are buried together in the graveyard of the old church of St Margaret in Lee, just south of the Greenwich Observatory.
About Kate Morant
I have a 1980’s degree in Medieval and Modern History, but ever since I’ve worked in an unrelated (and uncongenial) field. However, after becoming interested in Halley in 2010, I was motivated to change my situation, and in 2013 I returned to university to do a masters degree in Early Modern History at Birkbeck, and I wrote my dissertation on Halley’s maritime science. I’ve now started a part-time PhD at Birkbeck on Halley’s social and cultural world – but, alas, I still work part-time in that unrelated (and still uncongenial) field.
I began this project in 2012, a year before I returned to university, and both the style and the content of this blog would be very different if I were embarking on it today (2017). Nevertheless, it was working on this blog that encouraged me to return to university and to change my life for the better, so I hope that the evolution of the blog over its course may encourage others to see that change and development are possible.