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Larcum Kendall - Obituary

 

From the Gentleman’s Magazine, 1790.  Vol. 60, no. 2, pages 1213-1214.

 

Nov. 22. Aged 71, Larcum Kendall, watch maker, in Furnival’s-inn-court, Holborn.  He was one of the six persons appointed by the Commissioners of the Board of Longitude, in 1765, to receive the late celebrated Mr. John Harrison’s account of the principles and construction of his time-keeper; and was afterwards made choice of, by the said commissioners, as the most proper person to be employed in making another time-keeper, on the same construction, by way of trial how near other artists could come in the execution of Mr. Harrison’s principles.  His agreement with the Board bound him no farther than “to make parts like parts,” and to adjust them in the best manner he could.  The result of his labours was delivered to the Commissioners of Longitude some time about the beginning of the year 1771, and was immediately sent down to Greenwich, to be tried by Dr. Maskelyne, the astronomer royal, where it was found to go better than Mr. Harrison’s own watch had done before.  It was taken from the Observatory in April 1772, and sent out, for trial at sea, in Capt. Cook’s second voyage; and, in the November following, on their arrival at the Cape of Good Hope, the person, under whose care it was, found it was then going (within less than two seconds a-day) at the same rate it went at Greenwich, and that it gave the longitude of that place within less than eleven geographical miles of the truth.  In consequence of the account which was sent from thence, Mr. Harrison received the latter moiety of the 20,000l. offered to discoverers of the longitude by the famous act of the 14th of Queen Anne.  After leaving the Cape of Good Hope, though the time-keeper continued to accelerate gradually, it was in so moderate a degree that, notwithstanding it was absent more than three years and a quarter, it was found, on its return to Greenwich, in August 1775, to have altered its rate of going not quite 14 seconds a-day; though in that interval it had been in all latitudes and climates, from 51° North to 71° South, and over a space at least equal to three times the equatorial circumference of the earth.  ln the Autumn of 1775 the time-keeper was taken to pieces, and cleaned; after which, it was sent to Greenwich again, where, in the Spring of 1776, it was found to go as regularly as ever, at the rate of l 1-5th seconds a-day too slow.  It was delivered to Capt. Cook soon after; carried out with him in his last voyage, and, for the space of two years, though he was in all climates, from 51° North to 51° South, never varied so much as two seconds from that rate.  While they lay in Nootka Sound, in April 1778, it altered its rate (all at once) to losing between seven and eight seconds a-day, and continued to go uniformly at that rate till April, 1779, when it stopped (as it is said) on account of foulness; which is the more surprising, as it came home the first time almost as clean as it went out; and it was brought home covered with rust to such a degree that it was necessary to make some of the parts new, and others were polished deeper than was consistent with the maker’s wishes.—The writer will not assert that this was the best time-keeper ever made, because he will not run the risk of involving himself in a dispute with other artists; but this he may say, without fear of being contradicted, that no other time-keeper has ever gone through near the trials which it has done; and that, as a piece of workmanship, whether we consider the truth of handling, or the exquisite finishing of it, it has never yet been equalled, and perhaps never may.—Mr. Kendall was afterwards employed by the Board of Longitude to try what might be done by following Mr. Harrison’s principles, but leaving out some of the more complicated and expensive parts of the construction: the watch which was the result of this experiment was tried in Lord Malgrave’s voyage towards the North Pole, and in several other voyages; but, not-withstanding it was, like the former, a most excellent piece of workmanship, its performance sell considerably short of the former.  He was employed a third time by the Board to execute a watch on a most simple plan, of his. own invention, which may always be afforded at a moderate price; and which, on trial, has been found to go but little short of his first, executed on Mr. Harrison’s plan, as will appear from the account which is given of it in the observations made in Capt. Cook’s last Voyage, where it is distinguished by N° 2.  And those two excellent astronomers and navigators, Admirals Campbell and Elliot, can bear honourable testimony to its good-going since it returned from that voyage, as they each of them had it during their stations at Newfoundland.—Mr. Kendall was brought-up a Quaker, and bound apprentice to a repeating motion-maker; both of which he quitted almost as soon as he became his own master, and was, for several years, employed by the late Mr. Graham, in making his horizontal escapements, which, at that time, was reckoned a difficult piece of business.  But though he left the Quakers, and never dressed like them, he never quitted that simplicity of manners for which that sect is so generally admired: and a man more inflexibly upright, either in person, word, or deed, perhaps scarcely ever lived.  Lest it be added, to the credit of Our Friends, that, though he walked not nor held communion (if the term may be admitted) with them in his life-time, they received his body into the bosom of their church, at his death; and it may truly he said, that, among many worthy, a worthier man lies not amongst them.


Originally published in Cook's Log, page 42, volume 40, number 2 (2017).

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