Charles Mason life and biography

Charles Mason picture, image, poster

Charles Mason biography

Date of birth : 1728-04-18
Date of death : 1786-10-25
Birthplace : Weir Farm, England
Nationality : English
Category : Science and Technology
Last modified : 2011-12-19
Credited as : scientist, Astronomer, Mason-Dixon line

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Charles Mason was an English astronomer who made significant contributions to 18th-century science and American history, particularly through his involvement with the survey of the Mason-Dixon line, which came to mark the division between the northern and southern United States (1764–1768).

Charles Mason spent his early career as an assistant at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, where his chief responsibility involved compiling tables of lunar distances for deriving longitude. Accompanied by Jeremiah Dixon, he observed the transit of Venus from Cape Town in 1761, and the same two men were subsequently engaged to voyage to America and settle the long-running border dispute between the colonies of Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Stone markers were embedded along their Mason-Dixon Line at every mile, engraved with a "P" for Pennsylvania on the north side and an "M" for Maryland on the south. When winter made their work impractical, Mason and Dixon used a pendulum clock to conduct the first scientific observations of gravity in America.

After completing the boundary survey in America, Mason returned to Greenwich where he continued work on Mayer's Lunar Tables. He also contributed to the Nautical Almanac, working under Nevil Maskelyne, Astronomer Royal.

On September 27, 1786, Mason wrote to Benjamin Franklin that he had returned to Philadelphia with his wife, seven sons, and one daughter. Mason was very ill and confined to his bed. Mason also shared with Franklin the design for an astronomical project. Mason provided no explanation for his return to America, and nothing more is known of Mason's proposed project.

Mason died on October 26, 1786, in Philadelphia.The crater Mason on the Moon is named after him.Mason is one of the titular characters of Thomas Pynchon's 1997 novel Mason & Dixon.

The song Sailing to Philadelphia from Mark Knopfler's album of the same name, also has strong references to Mason and Dixon, and was inspired by Pynchon's book.

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