The Life and Achievements of Captain James Cook, RN, FRS


    THE consideration of Cook as the ‘physician’ rather than the astronomer, surveyor and explorer well deserves this pleasant story. It is the central theme, which the author is well qualified to undertake, in the summaries of his three voyages, to the neglect of much consideration of their value to scientific knowledge; however, his bibliography is so short that more cannot be expected. Cook served his apprenticeship in small colliers trading along the English coasts. He chose similar ships for his voyages, and his knowledge of their capabilities was a large element in his success. His observations on the eclipse of the sun as seen in Newfoundland in 1766 caused him to be appointed by the Royal Society as its chief observer of the transit of Venus viewed afterwards from Tahiti in June 1769. A further object was the discovery of the great southern continents, a current myth at that period, the second expedition having this as its main objective; the third was primarily concerned with the North-West Passage. Cook everywhere found new lands, and nearly every chart of the Pacific is headed by his name. His running survey of New Zealand, which he completely circumnavigated, causes him to be regarded as the leader and greatest of that line of surveyors that has made the Navy famous. This had been especially brought out by the late hydro-grapher, Admiral Sir W. Wharton, in his studies of Cook, the error in the longitude of the observation station at Tahiti being only two minutes. That Cook attained international fame during his life is seen in that France, the United States, Spain and Russia extended to his third expedition a safe conduct in that war period.

    The Life and Achievements of Captain James Cook, R.N., F.R.S.

    Explorer, Navigator, Surveyor and Physician. By Surgeon Rear-Admiral John Reid Muir. Pp. vii + 310 + 16 plates. (London, Glasgow and Bombay: Blackie and Son, Ltd., 1939.) 10s. 6d. net.

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    The Life and Achievements of Captain James Cook, RN, FRS. Nature 145, 481–482 (1940).

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