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Who was the person credited with the concept of a world's fair?

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World's Fair
by E.L. Doctorow

This novel tells the story of Edgar Altshuler, a 9-year-old boy from the Bronx, and his adventures at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. On his first visit to the fair, Edgar is enthralled by industry's vision of the futuresafe, secure and prosperous cities, speedy and cheap transportation and modern invention to make life easier. On his second visit, he sees that the exhibits are constructed of gypsum whose paint is peeling and that the displays are really toys.
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1964 NY World's Fair

Travel back in time to the 1964 New York World's Fair and take a tour of the fairgrounds. Though not sanctioned by the World's Fair Committee, it was still a spectacular exposition.
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Finding the Way in the Age of Sail
by Bob Brooke


Leaving port a ship heads out to sea. Land vanishes from site over the horizon. For days or weeks she sails on the trackless ocean. Passages held great peril, even for well-built ships under experienced shipmasters. Storm, fog, illness, accident, damage to the vessel or even shipwreck could bring death far from home. Vessels were known to vanish without a trace.

If a ship was to arrive safely at its destination, it was essential for the captain to calculate its position, using navigational tools such as the wet compass for determining direction, the chronometer for determining longitude, the sextant for calculating latitude, and the spyglass.

Early Nautical Instruments
Perhaps the earliest navigational instrument was the astrolabe, an instrument used for measuring the positions of heavenly bodies. It consisted of a circle or section of a circle, marked off in degrees, with a movable arm pivoted at the center of the circle. When a sailor oriented the zero point on the circle with the horizon, he could determine the altitude of any celestial object by sighting along the arm. While the astronomer's astrolabe was complex, a mariner’s astrolabe was much simpler. It was also heavier to keep it vertical on the rolling deck of a ship. Introduced about 1460, it didn’t come into general use until the beginning of the 16th century. Mariners continued to use it until after 1670, particularly by the Spanish and Portuguese, who used it until the early 18th century.

Among the more decorative and probably the earliest of nautical items are the compasses which enabled ships to navigate with some degree of certainty in daylight and when stars weren’t visible. The first use of a ship's compass dates from the 12th century. Although medieval compasses are extremely rare, German instrument makers began producing boxed compasses by the 16th Century.

The Mariner’s Compass
Eighteenth and nineteenth mariners used two types of compass—the dry card or magnetic and the liquid or gyrocompass. In the former, magnetic needles point in the general direction of the north magnetic pole. The latter consisted of a bowl filled with a liquid, usually a mixture of alcohol and water, which reduced friction and lessens vibrations. Since the gyrocompass wasn’t subject to the deviation and variation of the magnetic compass, it was ideal for use on a sailing vessel. The compass, housed in a case called a binnacle, usually stood near the wheel of a sailing ship.

Until the early 18th Century, a mariner's navigation consisted of “shooting the sun” to determine latitude and dead reckoning–where the ship actually was--coupled with piloting, to estimate the longitude.

The Search for Longitude
The increased activity in "the search for longitude" also spurred innovative interest in other areas of navigation. In 1731, John Hadley, an British mathematician demonstrated his new reflecting quadrant to fellow members of the Royal Society in London. He based his quadrant on the principle of light reflection and angles of incidence described by Robert Hooke, Isaac Newton, and Edmund Halley nearly a century earlier. The principle is that when an object is seen through a double reflection its angle from the eye is twice the angle between the reflecting surfaces. Thus Hadley's quadrant, reading to 90 degrees, actually required an arc of only 45 degrees, one eighth of a circle, or an "octant."

Hadley’s instrument consisted of a triangular wooden frame with a swinging index arm pivoted at the apex. He fixed a mirror at that point which would move with the arm. He fixed a second mirror, half of which was transparent, to one limb with the sight attached to the opposite limb. Finally, he scribed a precise scale, calibrated in degrees, on the arc of the bottom limb of the triangle, across which the index arm moved. Hadley’s invention eventually became known as the sextant.

The superiority of the sextant in terms of accuracy, compactness, and durability was indisputable. The last half of the 19th century saw little change in navigational instruments in general and the sextant in particular. Since a good sextant could last 50 years, there was little incentive for improvement in its manufacture or design.

Other Nautical Instruments
In 1735, John Harrison, a British carpenter, successfully constructed the first marine chronometer having some components of wood and weighing 125 pounds! Because of its precise timekeeping ability, the chronometer, in perfected form, later became an indispensable addition to nearly every ocean-going vessel.

An early version of the slide rule, the Gunta’s Scale, used logarithms and other scales to assist in numeric and trigonametirc calculations. Instead of using a sliding scale to assist in the addition and subtraction of logarithms, it used dividers to mark sums and differences. Some of its scales help solve the problems of dead reckoning.

A Walker’s Harpoon ship log was a mechanical log that told the distance a ship sailed
by recording the number of times a section of the machine turned. An indicator showed nautical miles sailed in hundreds, tens, and ones. A crewman dropped the log overboard when a ship sets sail and hauls it in for readings. Though it was imperfect due to mechanical losses and the unmeasurable effects of waves and ocean currents, a harpoon log was more accurate than a traditional ship’s log and sand hourglass.

One of the greatest concerns of the nautical instrument makers throughout history has been accuracy. Because of the severe conditions and extremes encountered at sea, a poorly constructed instrument was apt to shrink, expand, warp, or crack rendering a false, and potentially fatal reading. Instrument makers tried numerous materials and innovations in an attempt to ensure rigidity and stability of the octant and sextant.

Materials Used to Make Nautical Instruments
Around 1760, instrument makers began to use ivory for scales and nameplates on sextants because of its durability, ease of engraving, and light color which provided for easier reading. About the same time brass began to replace wood as the preferred material for the index arm, a trend that would eventually culminate in the elimination of wooden components altogether. The early quadrants had large frames, 18 to 20 inches in length, sometimes 24 inches and larger. Because scales had to be calibrated by hand, the early navigational instruments had to be large since the larger the instrument the easier the division of the scale.

The more accurate division of the scale and incorporation of a secondary vernier scale on the index arm, increased accuracy of these instruments and enabled makers to create smaller, easier-handled instruments. Manufacturers also added colored glass shades to aid the mariner when taking his sights in the sun's glare or in hazy conditions. Another original feature was the "backsight" fitted below the horizon mirror. It enabled the observer to sight on a celestial object using the opposite horizon in cases where the fore horizon was indistinct. About 1780 the introduction of the tangential screw fine adjustment represented the last major change in the basic operation of the octants and sextants for the next 150 years.

Nautical historians believe that octant makers used wood for them and brass for sextants. Although some examples of late 18th-century ebony and ivory sextants remain, makers produced numerous octants of brass in the mid 19th Century. Quadrants, sextants and octants vary considerably in complexity, quality of prisms and precision, those incorporating a telescope being especially desirable.

For the serious nautical collector the astrolabe is perhaps the ultimate—only 56 survive. But the most popular items are sextants, octants, chronometers, and, the rarest of all, the highly sought after ship logs.

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