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Greenwich meridian line

861 of 1169 nominations


Greenwich meridian line

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Greenwich meridian line

Having the Prime Meridian (0 degrees longitude) pass through the main telescope (primary transit instrument) of the Royal Observatory puts Greenwich at the centre of the world. All longitude to the east and west is calculated from this imaginary line running from the North to the South Pole. The momentous decision to standardise meridians and international timekeeping was taken in 1884 at a conference of 25 nations. Only San Domingo voted against Greenwich as the location of the prime meridian, while France and Brazil abstained. This conference also established a universal day, counted on the 24-hour clock, to begin at Mean Midnight in Greenwich. Greenwich Mean Time is world time. To read more about mechanical clock time, click here.

Greenwich was chosen for this significant position thanks to Britain’s pioneering astronomers, navigators and mapmakers. At the time of the conference, 72% of the world’s shipping was using British-made charts and the Nautical Almanac, all of which took Greenwich as their prime meridian.

Photo: National Maritime Museum, London


Your comments

Because it represents our seafaring past and is still as relevant today as when it was first proposed. Time has to start somewhere and it is so typically English that it starts next to the Thames in London!

Marsh Stitchman

Greenwich Mean Time and its physical representation in the Six Pips is recognised throughout the world. It represents Britains pre-eminent position as a sea-faring nation that set the standards which others followed. It is broadcast every hour of every day by the BBC World Service and finds its way into every home in this country.
Neil Parker

The meridian is the most potent icon of England's maritime identity, scientific achievements and role in creating the modern world. A physical artefact, designed as to be purely functional, it has nontheless become a work of incredible artistic and architectural importance. Finally, as a physical expression of an entirely cerebral concept, it perfectly summarises the English aptitude for creativity and invention.
Michael Pearson

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I nominate the English weather.