Longitude Prize 2014 launches

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The past few days have seen a lot of online activity ahead of today's launch of Longitude Prize 2014, and a number of us from the Museum attended a big event hosted by Tony Hall at the BBC this morning. At-the-BBC Lots is already being said about the six areas now up for public vote and vying for a prize pot of £10 million: dementia; water; paralysis; anitbiotics; flight; and food. You'll be able to see more about each of them (with a little bit of historical background) on 22 May on Horizon, which marks its 50th anniversary by looking at the new prize and the contenders. After that, you'll have a month to vote for the area you think most deserving, with the winner announced on 25 June. Then the work begins of setting the rules for how the prize for the chosen area might be won. From the point of view of this project, it's interesting to think about comparisons between the 1714 Longitude Act and Longitude Prize 2014. Fortunately, Becky is at hand, with a piece on the Guardian blog. Some time ago, she also wrote on this blog about the why the phrase 'longitude prize' is historically inaccurate. So there is an argument that today saw the announcement of the first Longitude Prize. It's also interesting to see how the history of the Longitude Act and its aftermath is being used around today's prize. So far, writers have mostly followed the popular line that John Harrison alone 'won' with H4 - as a piece in The Observer did at the weekend. Indeed, there was much talk this morning (with H4 prominently displayed on the podium) of looking for a modern-day Harrison. That in itself throws up some interesting questions - something for a future post, I think. But I'm pleased that we have been able to contribute a brief history for the Longitude Prize 2014 website that recognizes that there was more than one winner. An interesting question for today's Longitude Committee, then, will be whether they can envisage multiple winners emerging from today's challenge.