PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECTS IN CELESTIAL NAVIGATION

R. M. Leve

Peer Reviewed

Abstract: The study of psychological factors in astronomy and navigational astronomy has had a long history although this is little known by most modern navigators. A classic psychological experiment was carried out in the late 1766’s and early 1800’s and the principal investigators were astronomers, not psychologists. At the Greenwich Royal Observatory in 1796 the Astronomer Royal Maskelyne was engaged in timing the meridian transit of certain stars. He noticed his assistant, Kinnebrook, was recording the times of celestial phenomena about a half ‘a second later than the Astronomer Royal, himself. He called Kimrebrook’s attention to this error and Kinnebrook was told to correct it. Although Kinnebrook seemed to try to correct the discrepancy, a few months later, when Maskelyne again compared their observations, he noticed that the error had increased to .8 of a second. Maskelyne, considering this a grave error, decided that instead of following the Astronomer Royal’s instructions, Kinnebrook had “fallen into some irregular and confused method of his own.” Although history does not record Kinnebrook’s next position, he was sacked and no doubt left the Royal Observatory to find a less demanding superior.
Published in: NAVIGATION, Journal of the Institute of Navigation, Volume 21, Number 1
Pages: 83 - 87
Cite this article: Leve, R. M., "PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECTS IN CELESTIAL NAVIGATION", NAVIGATION, Journal of The Institute of Navigation, Vol. 21, No. 1, Spring 1974, pp. 83-87.
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