the father of American Navigation was born on March 26, 1773, in Salem, Massachusetts. At the age of ten; he left school to work in his father’s cooperage, before becoming a bookkeeping apprentice, to a ship chandler. At fourteen years of age he taught himself Algebra and later Calculus. He poured over books critical to the development of Astronomy, such as those written by Sir Isaac Newton. He also corrected thousands of calculation errors in John Hamilton Moore’s book “The New Practical Navigator.” As a young man he learned Latin and French allowing him to read foreign technical books and translated Pierre Simon de Laplace’s book on mathematics and theoretical astronomy.
In 1795, Bowditch went to sea on his first voyage as a ship’s clerk and yeoman. By his fifth voyage at sea he was promoted to Captain and was a part owner of the vessel. Following this voyage, he returned to Salem in 1803, resuming his studies. In 1802, his book The American Practical Navigator was first published. That same year, Harvard University awarded Bowditch an honorary Master of Arts degree. His tireless academic work earned him a significant standing, including acceptance to the “American Academy of Arts and Sciences.” In 1806, Bowditch was offered the “Chair of Mathematics and Physics at Harvard” as well as at the “United States Military Academy and the University of Virginia.”
His encyclopedia of navigation “The American Practical Navigator,” usually just referred to by his name “Bowditch,” still serves as a valuable handbook on oceanography and meteorology, and contains useful tables and a maritime glossary. Without a doubt it is the finest book on Navigation ever written and is available as a paperback and Kindle from Amazon.com.
By Captain Hank Bracker, author of “The Exciting Story of Cuba.”