John Harrison, inventor of the chronometer, was born on this day in 1693.
In 1714, the British government declared prize money to be given to whoever could figure out how to find ships' position at sea. Most of those who sought the prize believed that the answer lay in celestial navigation; Harrison found the solution with the marine chronometer -- a sturdy, reliable clock. The clock would be set to London time, and the navigator would check the time when the sun was at noon 'locally.' This allowed the navigator to see how far away he was from London, because the sun moves 15 degrees of longitude per hour. After the Board of Longitude refused to give Harrison the full prize, King George III himself tested "Harrison 5" (the fifth model of the chronometer) and found it extremely reliable. The king supported Harrison's petition and threatened to chew out Parliament. Harrison got the prize money when he was in his eighties, and even then it wasn't the full amount. Fortunately, he received money from the Board and Parliament throughout the years for research and development. You can read more about Harrison and the clock in Dana Sobel's Longitude; I read this book for my science fair project about the topic in seventh grade, and I really like it.
The marine chronometer. One of the most important instruments in the history of navigation. Captain Cook took a copy of H4 on his voyages. Also cool - there was a copy on the HMS Bounty.
Also, the Quartering Act was passed today in 1765. As this amusing article in the Onion suggests, since the American Revolution, we have been terribly successful in our struggle against British soldiers seeking to be quartered.