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Extended Audio Sample Riddle of the Compass, by Amir D. Aczel Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (165 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Amir D. Aczel Narrator: Henry Leyva Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Abridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Sometimes it pays to be in the right place at the right time. Certainly the mariners in Amalfi in the twelfth century were. Here the compass was first invented and used in navigation, eventually helping to make Italians the world’s greatest sailors.

But the story of the compass is shrouded in mystery and myth. It begins in ancient China around the time of the birth of Christ. A mysterious lodestone whose powers affected metal was known to the Emperor. This piece of metal suspended in water always pointed north and was put to excellent use in feng shui, the Chinese art of finding the right location. However, it was the Italians who unleashed the compass’s formidable powers on ships at sea.

Throughout the ancient world, sailors navigated by wind, and stars, and the routes of migrating birds, but bad weather and winter storms impeded their travels. When the compass migrated to Italy, the modern world began: Venice, trade with the East, the Age of Discovery. The compass made it all possible, and this is its fascinating story.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Aczel examines the myths, legends, and facts behind the dispute and provides a logical, although not indisputable, conclusion on which nation can claim the compass as its own. He also provides a layman’s overview of the development of navigation from the earliest days to the fifteenth century. Although the author is primarily known for his scientific books, Riddle of the Compass contains little or no jargon and a minimum of scientific terminology. A worthwhile and interesting addition.”

    School Library Journal

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by AC | 2/7/2014

    " Another excellent history of science/math and the world that brought it about and was changed by it. As is often the case, some of his diversions, while perhaps an attempt to paint a fuller historical picture, often end up contributing little more than making the book longer than it needs to be. Still, Aczel's research and presentation are a genuinely rewarding and should not be missed. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Katie | 12/29/2013

    " quick read - more like a thesis than anything else - but contained some interesting tidbits... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Rab9975 | 12/26/2013

    " A brief history of the unknown origins of one the most important tools in human history. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by John | 12/13/2013

    " Who knew that the story of a tool could be so compelling? "

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