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The Ingenious Mr Dummer: Rationalizing the Royal Navy in Late Seventeenth-Century England

Celina Fox (notes)

Abstract

The Ingenious Mr Dummer: Rationalizing the Royal Navy in Late Seventeenth-Century England. Celina Fox

Edmund Dummer (1651-1713) joined the Royal Navy in 1668 and rose to become its Surveyor from 1692 to 1698. His period of service coincided with the 'Scientific Revolution' and efforts made by early Fellows of the Royal Society to apply scientific principles to the processes of navigation and ship design. Although not a F.R.S. himself, Dummer knew men like Pepys and Evelyn who were. He tried to introduce a more rational, planned approach to the task of building ships and dockyards, employing the language of the Royal Society, elements of mathematical calculation and above all, his superlative draughting skills. His endeavours were hindered by traditional work patterns and opposition from vested interests, as well as by technical over-ambition, but his magnificent visual records and pioneering written reports survive, above all, in the King's Library within the British Library. King's MS. 40 provides a vivid account of the voyage Dummer made round the Mediterranean in 1682-84, including panoramic views, prospects and plans of the major landmarks, ports and arsenals at Naples, Livorno, Pisa, Venice, Genoa, Toulon, Marseilles, Gibraltar and Cadiz, as well as views, profiles and pop-up illustrations of the different types of shipping. King's MS. 43 is a complete survey of the six royal dockyards with every building drawn to scale in section and plan, recording the improvements made between 1688 and 1698, notably his own pioneering works at Portsmouth and Plymouth.

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