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Drawing the line : how Maso and Dixon surveyed the most famous border in America /
Edwin Danson.
New York : John Wiley, c2001.
viii, 232 p. : ill., maps ; 24 cm.
0471385026 (cloth : alk. paper)
More Details
New York : John Wiley, c2001.
0471385026 (cloth : alk. paper)
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
Edwin Danson is a geodetic surveyor with some 35 years of experience working on assignments in many countries, including the United States. He is a Chartered Surveyor of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors. He has made many contributions to professional journals and books and is a prominent authority in his field. He lives near London, England
Flap Copy
"Made famous as line between free and slave states before War Between the States. The survey establishing Maryland-Pennsylvania boundary began in 1763; halted by Indian wars 1767; continued to southwest corner 1782: marked 1784." Behind these words, inscribed on a solitary monument in southwest Pennsylvania, lies the complex, compelling tale of the most famous surveyors' line ever drawn. Originally created to settle an eighty-year border dispute between two aristocratic colonial families, the Mason-Dixon line not only became one of the greatest scientific achievements of its time but, nearly a century later, came to mark the monumental boundary between free and slave states. In the first nonfiction chronicle of this ambitious undertaking, professional surveyor Edwin Danson takes us on a grand tour through a world now mostly lost to us. Drawing the Line reconstructs the making of the Mason-Dixon line, from the infamous quarrels between the patrician Baltimore family of Maryland and the powerful Penn family of Pennsylvania to the harrowing fields and forests of eighteenth-century America, where we accompany Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, two young, exuberant English surveyors, as they risk their lives to resolve the epic border feud and establish a precise survey that had begun to seem "impossible for the Art of Man." After five grueling years in which the two intrepid Englishmen faced heavy rains and freezing sleet, along with angry Indians, they finally completed their assignment. Their great boundary survey was the first and, for many years, the most ambitious geodetic survey ever conducted. It set a precedent for the precise measurement and mapping of vast land distances. In addition to surveying 325 miles of boundary lines, Mason and Dixon measured the first degree of latitude and took the first scientific gravity measurements ever recorded in America. In ordinary language, Danson introduces us to the fascinating science of surveying, revealing for the first time in 250 years many long-lost surveying methods and finally answering the question of how Mason and Dixon succeeded where the best American surveyors had failed. Weaving revelations about surveying into an engrossing historical narrative that captures the spirit of pre-Revolutionary America, this book accomplishes for the making of the Mason-Dixon line what Dava Sobel's Longitude did for John Harrison and the science of time measurement. Exhaustively researched and vividly written, Drawing the Line presents a brilliant exploration of how two men solved one of the most formidable problems of eighteenth-century America-and revolutionized the way we have come to map America's grand landscape.
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2002-01-01:
English professional surveyor Danson provides a detailed and technical description of how Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon succeeded where others failed in conducting what, for many years, was the most ambitious geodetic survey ever undertaken. Danson explains the science of surveying and the methods developed by Mason and Dixon, which set a precedent for precise measurement and mapping of great land distances. These methods allowed them to be successful in surveying the 325-mile boundary line between Pennsylvania and Maryland, which is considered to be one of the most famous boundary lines ever surveyed. Danson also describes how Mason and Dixon measured the first degree of latitude and took the first scientific gravity measurements ever recorded in America, and their involvement in conducting two observations of the transit of Venus. Unfortunately, the value of this work for scholars is seriously diminished by its utter lack of documentation, even for quoted materials. Furthermore, there appears to be no use of recent secondary sources other than college US history textbooks. A work of value for the specialist in 18th-century technology and science. G. W. Franz Pennsylvania State University, Delaware County Campus
This item was reviewed in:
Booklist, January 2001
New York Times Book Review, August 2001
Choice, January 2002
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Back Cover Copy
THE FIRST POPULAR HISTORY OF THE MAKING OF THE MASON-DIXON LINE The Mason-Dixon line-surely the most famous surveyors' line ever drawn-represents one of the greatest and most difficult scientific achievements of its time. But behind this significant triumph is a thrilling story, one that has thus far eluded both historians and surveyors. In this engrossing narrative, professional surveyor Edwin Danson takes us on a fascinating journey with Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, two gifted and exuberant English surveyors, through the fields and forests of eighteenth-century America. Vividly describing life in the backwoods and the hardships and dangers of frontier surveying, Drawing the Line discloses for the first time in 250 years many hitherto unknown surveying methods, revealing how Mason and Dixon succeeded where the best American surveyors of the period failed. In accessible, ordinary language, Danson masterfully throws the first clear light on the surveying of the Mason-Dixon line. Set in the social and historical context of pre-Revolutionary America, this book is a spellbinding account of one of the great and historic achievements of its time. Advance Praise for Drawing the Line "Drawing the Line combines a fast-moving story, a human drama, and a clear account of surveying in the era of George Washington. An intriguing interaction of politics and science."-CHARLES ROYSTER, Boyd Professor of History, Louisiana State University, and Winner of the Bancroft Prize in History
Bowker Data Service Summary
Originally surveyed to settle an 80 year-old boundary feud, the Mason-Dixon Line came to mark the boundary between free and slave states. This volume also introduces the science of surveying, and reveals many long-lost surveying methods.
Table of Contents
Prologuep. 1
In the Reign of George the Thirdp. 5
The Fortieth Degreep. 10
The Great Chancery Suitp. 18
La Figure de la Terrep. 27
The Transit of Venusp. 40
Mr. Bird's Contrivancesp. 60
"Persons Intirely Accomplished"p. 71
The Southernmost Point of the Cityp. 79
Fifteen Statute Miles, Horizontalp. 93
The Tail of Ursae Minorisp. 103
Fine Sport for the Boysp. 110
"From the Post Mark'd West"p. 115
The Pencil of Timep. 125
"King of the Tuscarawa"p. 135
From Hence; to the Summitp. 144
At a Council of the Royal Societyp. 155
Vibration of the Pendulump. 162
Not One Step Furtherp. 172
A Degree of Latitudep. 184
The Last Transitp. 192
Legacyp. 197
Appendixp. 207
Bibliographyp. 219
Indexp. 223
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.

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