Nathaniel Bowditch

 

Nathaniel Bowditch was an accomplished autodidact whose contributions to mathematics were so influential that he was offered a chair at Harvard but he declined. What is of more interest, at least as far as this site goes, are his immense contributions to navigation. His corrections to the standard work at that time – The Practical Navigator (9th ed, 1791) – were so extensive that subsequent editions were labelled New American Practical Navigator (2d ed, 1807). This compendium is still used today and is referred to as Bowditch; it is carried on every American ship. Various volumes from 1822 to 2002 are found here; the 2017 edition, now called American Practical Navigator is also available online.

Here is his chart of the Salem coastline.

A finding aid to some of his papers can also be accessed online as well as his translation of the four volumes of Laplace’s Celestial Mechanics.

His son left us his Memoir of Nathaniel Bowditch.

Also of interest is Eulogy on Nathaniel Bowditch, LL.D., president of the American academy of arts and sciences; including an analysis of his scientific publications. Delivered before the Academy, May 29, 1838.

His house still stands.

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