Bowditch, Nathaniel

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Nathaniel Bowditch(1773-1838) scientist, navigator and scholar from Salem, mostly known for his scientific work "The New American Practical Navigator."

The fourth of seven children, Nathaniel Bowditch was born in Salem on March 26, 1773. His father was a cooper and by the age of 10, Nathaniel had left school to work for his father. After two years of this work, Nathaniel was apprenticed to a ship chandler, thus beginning his interest in everything nautical. In 1795 he went to sea for the first time as a clerk, later as supercargo and finally as ship master. At sea, while studying John Moore's navigation tables, he found numerous errors. In 1802, he published his own guide, the New American Practical Navigator which to this day is used on ships at sea as an important reference book. Bowditch worked on a survey of the harbors of Salem, Beverly, and Marblehead as well as a translation of Pierre Laplace's work Mecanique Celeste.

Later, he worked as president of the Essex Fire and Marine Insurance Company of Salem and Massachusetts Hospital Life Insurance Company. He was given 2 honorary awards from Harvard University.

After his death in 1838, Nathaniel Bowditch was buried in the Bowditch family plot in Cambridge's Mount Auburn Cemetery. He is also memorialized at the Mount Auburn Cemetery by a life-sized statue by R. Ball Hughes, erected in 1846.

A popular children's book, a novelization of Bowditch's life was published 1955, called Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham.

A cemetery headstone belonging to the members of the historic Bowditch Family was returned to Salem on Wed. Dec. 12, 2018. The stone was discovered in a garage in Scituate. It was eventually returned to Salem but it is unclear when the stone was taken from Charter Street, where it belongs in the cemetery, how many people it memorializes and how and when they died.

See Also

Vertical File in the Salem Collection - Bowditch, Nathaniel

New American Practical Navigator N. Bowditch, 1817.

Nathaniel Bowditch SalemWeb site (biography)

Carry on, Mr. Bowditch novel by Jean Lee Latham, 2003, c1955.

Yankee Stargazer biography by Robert E. Berry, 1941.

Nathaniel Bowditch biography by Harold Bowditch, 1945.

"228th Birthday bash set for Nathaniel Bowditch" Salem Evening News, Mar.19, 2001 p.A1

"Admiral to launch Bowditch anniversary events with lecture" Salem Evening News, Mar. 18, 2002 p.A1

"Salem to host Bowditch blast"(200th anniversary of the publication the Practical Navigator) Salem Evening News, July 10, 2002, p. A1

"Missing Bowditch gravestone found in Scituate. Stone marks mysterious, yet historic grave" Salem News, Dec. 6, 2018, p. 1

"Bowditch headstone returns to Salem" Salem News, Dec. 12, 2018, p. 1