Follow-up to Twain’s Renaissance Yankee

From my article here. Wikipedia’s article about A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court gets details of the plot rather wrong. But this bit is interesting: these are stories written about people transported to the past with modern knowledge, but who didn’t succeed it putting it to use:

Poul Anderson presented an antithesis in his story The Man Who Came Early, in which a modern American who finds himself in Viking Iceland fails to introduce modern technologies despite being an intelligent, competent, well-trained engineer, and finds that in a 10th century environment 10th century technologies work best. Ford Madox Ford presented another antithesis in his Ladies Whose Bright Eyes, in which the time traveler, in spite of being a trained engineer, lacks the technical know-how to develop modern technology from scratch in medieval society. After some half-hearted attempts he “goes native” and makes a credible effort at becoming a knight.

One interesting bit in the book is a crucial plot element at the beginning: Hank Morgan happens to remember the exact date and time (to the minute) that a total solar eclipse will appear (visible from where he is in England) in the year 528.

There are at least two eclipses per year, and sometimes as many as five. They are visible from various points around the globe, and from relatively narrow strips. Since Hank is not revealed anywhere else to be a lightning calculator or have an eidetic memory for such things, this stands out as being implausible.

It’s also wrong, as it happens. Here are the eclipses for the years 520-540AD. There’s an annular eclipse — arguably close enough — a bit over eight years later visible from his location.

At this site, you can look for solar eclipses four thousand years in the past, and a thousand years into the future. And learn a lot more about them; you never know when you might need it.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

 

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