diamond geezer

 Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Marking the meridian

The Prime Meridian is 120 years old today. That's the imaginary north-south line through Greenwich which divides the world into western and eastern hemispheres, and from which longitude and universal time are measured. It passes less than a kilometre from my house. And we'd be lost without it.

Noon was once simply the time when the sun was directly overhead. The advent of rail travel in the 19th century forced many countries to standardise time based on a national meridian. The UK adopted Greenwich Mean Time in 1880, while the French preferred their own meridien through Paris instead. A global standard was clearly required, so in 1884 US President Chester Arthur invited delegates from around the world to Washington to attend the first (and last) International Meridian Conference.

There were an infinite number of possible meridians, each stretching from the North to the South Pole, and any one of these could have been chosen. However, the Greenwich Meridian was pre-eminent because it had already been adopted by the UK and USA and was therefore being used by 72% of the world's shipping. The French backed down, but only in return for the rest of the world agreeing to think about adopting their system of metric measures. The crucial conference vote was taken on 13 October, with France and Brazil abstaining and only San Domingo in opposition. And so time began at Greenwich (latitude 51°28'38"N, longitude 0°).
"That the Conference proposes to the Governments here represented the adoption of the meridian passing through the centre of the transit instrument at the Observatory of Greenwich as the initial meridian for longitude."
Ayes 22; noes 1; abstaining 2. (13 October 1884)
To celebrate today's anniversary I'm taking you on a week-long journey up the zero degree line of longitude from Greenwich to the M25, stopping off at all the places where the meridian has been marked in some way. There are plaques and monuments, sundials and statues, and an awful lot of random everyday objects that just happen to lie on this most special of lines. Plus it's a great excuse for a walk through East London. Do join me.


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream