The Gauss Meridian Stein – September 11 2019 Gravel/Road Ride

We rode mostly on the road linked together with gravel sections to the southern geodetic meridian stone placed on top of a hill by Carl Friedrich Gauss in 1819 at Friedland. The gravel climb up along an old pilgrim’s route was leg breaking (20% in places) and we felt quite dizzy by the time we got to the top from the effort.

Although the Romans and Greeks had been measuring time and distance few Europeans in the mediaeval period would have had much notion of time/distance other than the practical knowledge of how far they could walk or for how long they could work in daylight hours, and when the sun rose or set each day,

Modelling of the earth in maps was also artistic in nature with accurate depiction overlooked or simply not technically possible. The Renaissance saw humanity seek more answers rather than a general acceptance of the Earths patterns and science moved on quickly to help map the world.

Improved shipping technology increased the ability to cover greater distances and there was a real need for greater accuracy and real facts about time and distance. Mariners had been sailing by the stars, moon and the sun for guidance (north and south), but navigation was hugely flawed by there being no safe means to measure east to west and this had often led to disaster. The answer came when after years of wrangling the Royal Navy accepted that Longitude could be measured by the use of time and in 1765 a sea going hand watch designed and developed by John Harrison was adopted by the English Admiralty and this bought huge clarity and safer navigation to the seas.

On land, rulers, administrators and even the common folk were often ‘all at sea’. The skills and roles of cartographers grew hugely in the 1700’s and 1800’s. In Germany, mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss was asked to measure the size of the Kingdom of Hannover and in 1825 he began a geodetic survey lasting until 1845. He used his own Heliotrope (mirrors used to reflect light over distance) and founded the fundamental theorem of algebra to achieve this. You know trigonometry and triangles etc.

Prior to this survey Gauss had experimented of how to do such a survey and in 1819 he designated the observatory in Goettingen (paid for by the Hanoverian Royals) as zero and placed a number of geodetic meridian stones across the area, The one we visited is the southern stone marker situated on the high ground at Friedländer Holz which was made to have a direct line of sight (not now) with Goettingen.

Gauss was a professor at Goettingen University until his death in 1855 and he is buried at Albani Cemetery within the city. Gauss amongst many achievements also created the first radio signal.

After the climb and descent up and from the Meridian Stein we ate cake… Goosegog Cake!

The Ride
Garmin Connect:

Cycle Fahrrad Goettingen home page

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