October 18, 2011 Expedition to the Equator in 1735: A Scientific Adventure Story, Oct. 25

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Ricardo V. Luna, a distinguished visiting scholar at the John W. Kluge Center and former ambassador of Peru to the United States, will hold a conversation with award-winning science writer Larrie D. Ferreiro, whose latest book describes an 18th-century scientific expedition to the equator to determine the true shape of the Earth.

The discussion will take place at the Library of Congress at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 25, in Room 119 on the first floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. Sponsored by the Library’s Kluge Center and Hispanic Division, the event is free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations are required.

Ferreiro’s new book “Measure of the Earth: The Enlightenment Expedition That Reshaped Our World” tells the story of a 10-year scientific expedition to the equator to resolve the mystery surrounding the shape of the Earth. It was known that the Earth was not a perfect sphere, but scientists did not know if it was elongated or flattened at the poles. As a Washington Post book review asked, did the planet look like an egg standing upright in its carton or like an exercise ball when someone sat on it?

Not knowing the precise shape impeded the ability to precisely locate ships at sea. France and Spain sent a group of scientists and naval officers to resolve the debate. Marching down the Andes, they used the most advanced surveying and astronomical equipment to measure the length of a degree of latitude at the equator. Many years later, the notoriety of the expedition gave a newly independent country its name—Ecuador.

Luna, who will introduce Ferreiro and set the stage for the discussion, was appointed in July by the Librarian of Congress as a distinguished visiting scholar at the Kluge Center, where he is studying the intellectual history of hemispheric political and cultural links.

Luna served as Peru’s ambassador to the United States from 1992 to 1999. He was the Peruvian ambassador to the United Nations from 1989 to 1992, and ambassador to the Court of St. James, London, from 2006 to 2010. He has taught international relations at Brown, Columbia, Tufts, Harvard and Princeton universities and the University of San Martín de Porres in Lima, focusing on United States-Latin American relations and Andean governance.

Ferreiro is the author and editor of several books on the history of science and technology, including “Ships and Science” (2007), which received the North American Society for Oceanic History’s John Lyman Award for Best Book in Science and Technology. He trained and worked as a naval architect in the British, French and U.S. navies and the U.S. Coast Guard, and he has served as technical expert for the International Maritime Organization. Ferreiro has a Ph.D. in the history of science and technology from Imperial College, London, and lives in Fairfax, Va.

Through a generous endowment from John W. Kluge, the Library of Congress established the Kluge Center in 2000 to bring together the world’s best thinkers to stimulate and energize one another, to distill wisdom from the Library’s rich resources and to interact with policymakers in Washington. For further information on the Kluge Center, visit www.loc.gov/kluge/.


PR 11-201
ISSN 0731-3527