John Harrison was a self-educated English carpenter and clockmaker who invented the marine chronometer, a long-sought-after device for solving the problem of calculating longitude while at sea.
Harrison's solution revolutionized navigation and greatly increased the safety of long-distance sea travel. The problem he solved was considered so important following the Scilly naval disaster of 1707 that the British Parliament offered financial rewards of up to £20,000 under the 1714 Longitude Act.
In 1730, Harrison presented his first design, and worked over many years on improved designs, making several advances in time-keeping technology, finally turning to what were called sea watches. Harrison gained support from the Longitude Board in building and testing his designs. Toward the end of his life, he received recognition and a reward from Parliament. Harrison came 39th in the BBC's 2002 public poll of the 100 Greatest Britons.